Supreme Court acquits Nawaz Sharif in plane hijacking case
Friday, 17 Jul, 2009 | 09:45 AM PST |
ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Friday overturned convictions against former prime minister Nawaz Sharif for plane hijacking and terrorism, two months after reversing a ban on the opposition leader's holding office.
Sharif was convicted of ‘hijacking’ a commercial jet carrying Pervez Musharraf after denying the aircraft landing rights on October 12, 1999 as Pakistan was convulsed by a coup that swept Musharraf to power.
The plane eventually landed and Musharraf, who was then army chief of staff, seized control of the country.
‘Looking at the case from any angle — the charge of hijacking, attempt to hijack or terrorism does not stand established against the petitioner,’ the Supreme Court ruled on a petition filed by Sharif.
The five-judge court headed by Justice Tassaduq Hussain Jillani heard the petition in June, but initially reserved judgement.
‘The conviction and sentence of the appellant are set aside and he is acquitted,’ said the order, written in English.
The ‘petitioner had neither used force nor ordered its use and undisputedly no deceitful means were used.’
The opposition Pakistan Muslim League-N party headed by Sharif welcomed the judgement.
‘A judgement given by a kangaroo court nine years ago has been nullified by an independent and sovereign apex court in the light of the constitution, law and evidence on record,’ PML-N spokesman Siddiqul Farooq told AFP.
He said the party would now endeavour to bring former ‘dictator Pervez Musharraf to book and hold him accountable.’
The case was always a bad joke. There were a total of 12 defendants charged with exactly the same offence - based on exactly the same evidence - and 11 were honorably acquitted by the anti-terrorism court headed by the Sessions Judge Rehmat Hussain Jaffery.
Nawaz Sharif, though, was not only convicted but given a life sentence. It is said the judge intentionally left sufficient grounds in this manner to allow overturning the sentencing later on appeal by the defendant in a higher court.
The Martial-Law Government of the time appealed to have that life sentence changed to death, but in the meantime the Saudis intervened.
The plane had landed safely, yet the cockpit voice and data recorders were never produced in the court on the pretext these were accidentally erased during data extraction. Captain Sarwat who piloted the plane disappeared soon after and later found to have been granted early retirement by PIA and had moved to Florida with his family. None of the passengers in the supposedly commercial flight PK-805 has ever surfaced till date, and Lt. General (late) Jamshed Gulzar Kiyani of ISI at the time hinted in a TV show that the plane had no passengers, but was rather a chartered flight for the COAS, Musharraf.
Despite all the above, Musharraf almost succeeded in hanging Nawaz Sharif through this ridiculous case, had the Saudis not threatened to terminate the free oil facility to Pakistan - vital in the post nuclear test environment - if Nawaz was not released into exile.