Pakistan lawyers back Musharraf ruling judge

Pakistan lawyers back Musharraf ruling judge
Pakistan lawyers back Musharraf ruling judge

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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Bar Council said on Friday it would file a petition in the Supreme Court to defend a judge who wrote the verdict in the high treason case against the country’s former leader, Gen. Pervez Musharraf.

The government had criticized the wordings of the ruling, saying it would file a reference against the judge in the Supreme Judicial Council.

Justice Waqar Ahmed Seth’s order in the detailed judgment released on Thursday drew widespread criticism for his instruction that the authorities “drag” Musharraf’s “corpse” to D-Chowkin Islamabad and hang it for three days, should he die before the death sentence handed to him be carried out.

The government announced shortly after the release of the judgment that it would move the council — a constitutional body authorized to hear cases of misconduct against the members of the country’s superior judiciary — against Justice Seth for his “despicable” observation in the judgment.

“We will challenge the government’s reference against Justice Seth in the Supreme Court, and defend his verdict in the case,” Syed Amjad Shah, vice chairman of the Pakistan Bar Council, the country’s top regulatory body of lawyers, told Arab News on Friday.

He said that the government’s “mala fide intent” against the judge was exposed by its stance against the verdict. “The government has the prerogative to file a reference against any judge, but under the law it cannot be entertained,” he said.

Shah said the government and other aggrieved parties can file a petition in the Supreme Court against the ruling, but “cannot get a judge removed” through the Supreme Judicial Council on the basis of a judgment.

Musharraf, the 76-year-old former military ruler of Pakistan was handed the death sentence on Tuesday in absentia as he currently resides in and is undergoing treatment for multiple ailments. He seized power in October 1999 in a bloodless military coup, and remained there until 2008.

The court’s senior lawyers said it was a lengthy and complicated process to file a reference against any judge of the superior judiciary and then get him removed for misconduct, or for physical or mental incapacity.

“The government apparently wants to offset pressure from different sides by filing the reference,” Habibullah Khan, senior advocate of the Supreme Court, told Arab News. “The government wants to show it has adopted a legal course against the judge who used graphic reference in the Musharraf ruling.”

The Supreme Judicial Council, he said, consisted of five members — the chief justice of the Supreme Court, its next two most senior judges and two senior high court judges.

The council may initiate a probe at the request of the president or on its own, if it suspects that a judge may be incapable of properly performing their duties due to physical or mental incapacity, or misconduct.

“If a judge is charged with any offense, he is removed by the president,” he said. “But in Justice Seth’s case, the government is not in a position to establish a cogent case against him.”

However, political analysts said the government was left with no option but to file a reference against the judge after the ruling against the former chief of the all-powerful military.

“The government is trying to save face by moving against the judge,” Zebunnisa Burki, a political analyst, told Arab News. “The government is caught: It can neither support the verdict nor oppose it openly.”

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