SHC strikes down travel ban on Musharraf

Karachi: The Sindh High Court (SHC) on Thursday struck down the decision of federal government to place former president Pervez Musharraf’s name on Exit Control List (ECL). However, it suspended the operation of its order for 15 days and allowed federal government time to approach apex court against the decision.

Two-judge bench headed by Justice Muhammad Ali Mazhar announced 44-page-long verdict on the petition of Musharraf seeking to delete his name from ECL.

Justice Mazhar read out the concluding part of verdict in courtroom as stating: “The Memorandum dated 5 April 2013, placing the name of general (retired) Pervez Musharraf on ECL is stricken down. Since the direction contained in this judgment is self-executory, therefore; the operation of this judgment is suspended only for 15 days during which federal government if so desire may file appeal in the Supreme Court”.

Since the Special Court had made it clear that mere due to pendency of high treason case against Musharraf, his name cannot be placed on ECL and court had also exempted him from appearance in the court till he is required by it, no travel restrictions can be placed on him, the bench observed in the judgment.

It noted that right of citizen to travel abroad is a fundamental and is guaranteed under Article 2-A, 4, 9, 15 and 25 of the Constitution, adding that no reason was communicated to Musharraf by government as to why his name was placed on ECL.

“A plethora of the judgments are available in which such type of actions were considered arbitrarily, unjust, without any valid reason and violative of fundamental rights. It is also well settled that mere pendency of civil or criminal cases against a citizen is no ground to deny him fundamental right of travel within or outside Pakistan. Life, liberty or property of a citizen cannot be taken away or adversely affected except in accordance with the law”.

The verdict said that it is also well settled that after granting bail by the competent court the custody is regulated by such court of law. Merely on apprehension that the petitioner will not return back to Pakistan is no ground for depriving him of his fundamental rights.

Federal law officer had not assigned any reason to substantiate his claim that his presence in country involved public interest, the bench observed while stating, “We are of the view that in the case of high treason the public interest at large is involved to know the reasons for prosecuting the accused for high treason”.

It said that Special Court clearly stated in its order that unless an accused is in custody, a criminal court cannot restrict his movement. It is further stated that he can work for gain anywhere and get medical treatment at any medical facility on his own choice.

Attorney-General argued that Hussain Haqqani was allowed to leave the country on the orders of Supreme Court but he did not return back. He referred to Extradition Treaty between Pakistan and UAE and Article 4 in which the extradition may not be granted if the crime for which the extradition is requested is a politically motivated.

“The courts of this country are not helpless, even in past, there are various examples in which the apex court of his country passed orders to ensure custody of accused persons so that they may be tried such as the case of Sharukh Jatoi and Tauqir Sadiq”, the court observed.

The court said that according to the prosecution story, Musharraf is also involved in four other criminal cases in which extradition would not be denied in any treaty with any foreign country, adding that if in any case, the accused is absconded, the law is not helpless but a procedure to deal such situation is already provided under the Criminal Procedure Code and other relevant laws.

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