ISLAMABAD: Former military ruler Pervez Musharraf became the first former army chief to appear in a national court on Tuesday in a treason case.
The 70-year-old arrived in a heavily protected cavalcade of at least half a dozen vehicles wearing a dark blazer and appearing relaxed during a hearing that lasted only a few minutes. He sat in a witness box and stood briefly when addressed by the judge, but did not speak. Asked afterwards how he was feeling, he told AFP that he was “good”. He faces treason charges, which can carry the death penalty, over his suspension of the constitution and imposition of a state of emergency in 2007 while he was president.
He was first ordered to appear before the tribunal on December 24, but has missed repeated hearings since then due to bomb scares and health problems that saw him complain of a heart ailment. His defence lawyer Anwar Mansoor argued Tuesday that judge Faisal Arab had not responded to a challenge to the court’s ability to try the former general, which Arab promised to decide on Friday.
Musharraf has challenged the civilian court’s right to try a former army chief, saying he is entitled to be dealt with by a military tribunal. He has also accused Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, whom he ousted in a 1999 coup, of waging a “vendetta” and has asked for permission to go abroad for medical treatment, which has been refused. “We can call him again after deciding on the jurisdiction issue,” judge Arab said after declaring that he intended to formally indict Musharraf.
Musharraf arrived in the special court amid tight security but he was not indicted. He took the stance that the jurisdiction of the special court be decided prior to the indictment. Justice Faisal Arab remarked that according to the law the accused is charged on his presence in court. On this, Anwar Mansoor said that the applications regarding jurisdiction of special court to hear the case and other miscellaneous applications were pending before the court. He requested the court to give its verdict on these applications prior to indicting the accused.
The special court said it would issue its verdict regarding shifting of the case from special court to military tribunal under Army Act and other miscellaneous applications. Musharraf has endured a torrid time since returning to Pakistan in March last year on an ill-fated mission to run in the general election. He was barred from contesting the vote.
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