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SHC lifts Travel Ban on Pervez Musharraf (Free to Fly)

Posted by on Friday, June 13, 2014, 11:19
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The Sindh High Court (SHC) on Thursday ordered the easing of a travel ban on former military ruler Pervez Musharraf within the next 15 days.

Pervez Musharraf

Pervez Musharraf

The court’s order will allow Musharraf to leave the country once his name is removed from the Exit Control List (ECL) – perhaps the last procedural hurdle in his departure.

At the same time, the ruling left the door open for the federal government to appeal against the decision. The former president faces a myriad of legal challenges – including treason charges for imposing emergency rule in 2007 while he was in power.

Thursday’s ruling was announced by a division bench of the SHC, comprising Justices Muhammad Ali Mazhar and Shah Nawaz Tariq. The decision was reserved after the court heard arguments that stretched over several months from the attorney general and Musharraf’s counsel.

The order stated that the ban “placing the name of General (retd) Pervez Musharraf on the ECL is struck down.”

In his petition, the former president requested the court to lift the travel ban imposed by the government, allowing him to visit his ailing mother in Dubai. However, some see it as a ploy to flee the country to avoid the cases against him.

Musharraf contended that he had been granted bail in three other cases linked to his time in power including the assassination of opposition leader Benazir Bhutto, and the murder of Baloch leader Nawab Akbar Bugti. On March 29, the bail was extended by 21 days, however Musharraf was barred from leaving the country without the trial court’s permission.

Commenting on the verdict, Musharraf’s lawyer Farogh Naseem said, “The former president does not want to live like a convicted man. If he is allowed to leave Pakistan, he will come back whenever he is needed.” He advised the government to lift the travel ban instead of going into appeal.

Jurisdiction

During the proceedings, the bench dismissed an objection raised by the attorney general regarding the jurisdiction of the court to hear the petition as “misconceived”.

The court said that the petitioner was residing in Karachi, the partial cause of action also accrued at Karachi where the passport and immigration authorities perform their duties while Federation of Pakistan is performing its functions all over Pakistan, hence the high courts at Karachi and Islamabad both have concurrent jurisdiction in this matter.

Apex court’s order

The judges also observed that the Supreme Court’s order directing authorities to place Musharraf’s name on the ECL was of an interim nature which was merged in the final order and does not survive after final adjudication.

It is a well settled principle that once a final order is passed, all earlier interim orders merge into the final order and the interim orders cease to exist, they added.

“Right of citizen to travel abroad is a fundamental right and abridgement thereto be tested on the touchstone of the constitutional provisions. It is the right guaranteed under Article 2-A, 4, 9, 15 and 25 of the Constitution. No reason was communicated to the petitioner as to why his name was placed on ECL,” the judges said.

The bench further said, “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.”

Government’s stance

“We will decide the future course of action on whether to challenge SHC’s decision that directs the government to remove Musharraf’s name from the ECL, said Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid while talking to The Express Tribune following the verdict. “The issue was not discussed during the meeting chaired by prime minister with senior party leaders,” he added.

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