Ordering General (r) Pervez Musharraf to appear in person on February 18, the Special Court on Friday warned his surety bond would be forfeited and non-bailable arrest warrants issued if he failed to appear on the given day.
Musharraf’s counsel Anwar Mansoor assured the Special Court, comprising judges of three high courts, that the former president would appear on February 18 and if failed to do so, the court could issue non-bailable warrants for him. He said he (the lawyer) was flying abroad on Sunday (February 9) and would come back on February 17 and would only be able to resume arguments on February 18.
Sharifud-Din-Pirzada had told the court on the day when Musharraf was shifted to Armed Forces Institute of Cardiology (AFIC) that the former army general would appear. The court issued summons thrice, directing Musharraf to appear, but he has not complied with the orders to date. The legal experts are of the view the court will frame high treason charges the day he appears before it.
Meanwhile, the Supreme Court registrar on Friday returned Pervez Musharraf’s petition filed under 184 (3) of the Constitution against the Special Court’s January 10 and 31 orders. Musharraf had challenged the Special Court orders regarding applicability of Code of Criminal Procedure to the proceedings and issuance of his bailable warrants. The registrar office objected that the application was not maintainable under Article 184 (3) of the Constitution.
During the proceedings, when Justice Faisal Arab inquired about the execution of the warrants, Anwar Mansoor pleaded that they had submitted an application for the ex-general’s exemption. He said: “Musharraf has no hesitation to appear, but he feels that this court has no jurisdiction regarding the matter.”
He contended if the court comes to the conclusion that it has no jurisdiction, the statement of charges against the accused would cause great humiliation to him not only in Pakistan but also abroad he had been president and chief of army the staff of this country.
The court made it clear to the legal team that an accused in a case has every right to question jurisdiction of a court if he can make out a case, but non-appearance would amount to disobedience. Justice Faisal remarked Musharraf could file an application to defer framing of charges. These remarks encouraged his counsel to state that Musharraf would appear before this court on February 18.
Anwar Mansoor also told the court that Musharraf’s car was diverted to AFIC on the direction of Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan and the court could confirm it by checking the record of communication on the wireless set of the security agencies. “I never raised the issue of Musharraf’s ailment and security threats to him,” the counsel further stated.
The court has summoned Musharraf's guarantor Maj-Gen (r) Rashid Qureshi on February 10 as the accused has never appeared before it. Qureshi gave surety and undertook that the accused would appear before the court on each and every date.
Musharraf’s team has challenged the Special Court’s jurisdiction, judges’ biasness, appointment of prosecutor Akram Sheikh and that the former president could only be tried under Army Act.
On the issue of biasness, the counsel cited a judgment of Justice Faisal Arab delivered against Musharraf on his election petition. He said Justice Faisal Arab was biased against his client as he had upheld the returning officer’s order to disqualify Musharraf to contest the 2013 general elections.
In response to Anwar’s arguments, Prosecutor Tariq Hassan said this court had shown sufficient leniency to the accused who was not appearing. He prayed to the court to issue non-bailable arrest warrants for the ex-general. He said fairness should not be only for an individual as millions of people were affected by this case while the government has already spent millions of rupees on security arrangements for Musharraf’s appearance in the court.
The hearing was adjourned till February 10. On that day Khalid Ranjha would start arguments on his application that Pervez Musharraf could only be tried under Army Act 1952.
The surprise Musharraf’s counsels had been talking about came in the shape of non-appearance of Musharraf despite issuance of bailable warrants. Kasuri, talking to reporters outside the Special Court, said: “It was surprising that despite issuance of the bailable warrants, Musharraf did not come to the court today (Friday).”
Israr Ahmed adds from Rawalpindi: Top-level security arrangements were put in place in the twin cities on Friday with an expectation that former President Pervez Musharraf who is under treatment at Armed Forces Institute of Cardiology (AFIC) will proceed to Islamabad to appear before a special court in the high treason case, but he once again skipped.
Musharraf was due to appear before the Special Court to face treason charges under Article 6 for suspending, subverting and abrogating the Constitution, imposing an emergency in the country in November 2007 and detaining the judges of the superior courts.
As part of the security plan, three separate routes were designed to provide Musharraf with protection and more than 1,100 cops deputed in addition to the Elite Force commandoes and Pakistan Rangers.
Meanwhile, the law-enforcement agencies checked the surroundings of AFIC with sniffer dogs and scanners. The bomb disposal squad also assisted the LEAs in the process.
A large number of media people, including international journalists, remained on toes outside the AFIC expecting that Musharraf would be taken to the Special Court.
On the other hand, Army and AFIC security stopped the Islamabad police motorcade at the gate and did not allow it to go inside, which had come to take Musharraf to the court. However, later, the motorcade was allowed to proceed inside after a thorough checking.