Pakistan's top court on Thursday sought a reply from the Pakistan government on the steps taken to ensure the return of former military dictator General Pervez Musharraf to face the high treason case trial.
Hearing a plea by the Lahore High Court Bar Association over delay in trial of Mr Musharraf by the special court in the treason case, a three-bench bench headed by Chief Justice Asif Saeed Khosa said, "Should the government become hostage to a suspect? If a suspect does not appear, then does the court become helpless?"
Mr Musharraf, 75, who lives in Dubai, is facing several cases including a treason case for suspending the Constitution in 2007, which led to the confinement of a number of superior court judges in their houses and sacking of over 100 judges.
The treason case was started by the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government in 2013 and he was charged in 2014. A conviction for high-profile treason carries the death penalty or life imprisonment.
The former military ruler left for the UAE in 2016 for medical treatment and has not returned since, citing security and health reasons.
Few months later, the special court had declared him a proclaimed offender and ordered the confiscation of his property owing to his no-show.
The Chief Justice asked what measures the government had taken to call back Mr Musharraf to the country.
"It was said that the court allowed him to go abroad, but the government and not the court permitted him to. The court had left it to the government, the court order did not state that Musharraf be sent abroad," the top judge added.
"If Musharraf does not come back then his statement can be recorded via video link. If he still does not record his statement via video link, then it will be understood that he has denied the charges and the special court can write ''denied'' in front of all his statements," he said.
The bench said that a treason case has been registered against Mr Musharraf and a special court was formed for his trial and was directed to take immediate steps. "The trial has been halted because Musharraf is not in the country."
The top judge then sought a report from the registrar of the special court over the reasons of delay in hearing of the case.
The top court also issued notices to the federal government and directed the attorney general to submit a reply on behalf of the federal government and appear in person for the next hearing on March 25.
"Everyone is equal before the law. The attorney general should apprise us of the measures taken by the government for Musharraf's return," the chief justice said.
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