ISLAMABAD: The special court trying former military ruler Pervez Musharraf for high treason Friday ordered him to appear on February 18, the latest postponement in the long-delayed case.
The 70-year-old is facing treason charges, which can carry the death penalty, over his imposition of a state of emergency in 2007 while he was president. He was first ordered before the tribunal on December 24 but has yet to put in an appearance, with bomb scares and health problems keeping him away. The former general has been in a military hospital since falling ill with heart trouble while travelling to court on January 2.
On January 31 the court refused to grant him permission to go abroad for medical treatment and ordered him to appear on Friday. But at Friday’s hearing Judge Faisal Arab accepted a request from Musharraf’s lawyers that he be excused until February 18. The next hearing in the case will be on February 10, but Musharraf is not required to attend. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was the man Musharraf ousted from power in his 1999 coup, and his lawyers have said the treason case is an attempt to settle old scores through the courts. They have also challenged the civilian court’s right to try a former army chief, saying he is entitled to be dealt with by a military tribunal.
The court also directed Gen (r) Rashid Qureshi, guarantor for Musharraf, to appear before it on February 10. In his arguments before the court, Musharraf’s counsel Anwar Mansoor assured the court that his client would appear on February 18. “Pervez Musharraf will appear before the court after being discharged from the hospital,” he added. The court asked Musharraf’s counsel whether the court orders were complied with. The counsel apprised the bench that the court warrant was complied with but his client has shown reservations over the court orders.
Musharraf’s nine-member legal team submitted an application for the withdrawal of his bailable arrest warrants, issued on January 31, and prayed that the court issued warrants beyond its jurisdiction. The application pointed out that Musharraf accepted the warrants, under protest, for the rule of law. Anwar Mansoor also pleaded that his client’s petitions challenging the appointments of the prosecutor and judges in the case should be taken up first. He said that if the hearing proceeded without a decision on the petitions, it would be injustice to his client. Justice Faisal Arab intervened, saying proceedings in the case were deferred on three consecutive hearings.
In addition to treason, Musharraf faces an array of other criminal charges dating back to his 1999-2008 rule, including for the murder of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto in December 2007. So far, nothing has come of rumours that a backroom deal would be struck to get Musharraf out of the country before trial.
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