ISLAMABAD - Amid security threats outside and high drama inside, the Special Court on Tuesday granted another exemption from appearance to former president and army chief Pervez Musharraf, extending his summons for March 14 (Friday) for framing of treason charges.
Gen (r) Pervez Musharraf’s lawyer Anwar Mansoor said in the exemption application that his client’s appearance before the court was impossible in view of the Ministry of Interior’s letter outlining security threats. Citing intelligence reports, the ministry had said on the eve of court proceedings that Al-Qaeda and Taliban had planned to target Musharraf on the way to the court. It also stated the attackers had planned to assassinate him inside or outside the court or he could be killed by his own guard as was done in the case of former Punjab governor Salman Taseer.
Justice Faisal Arab, heading the three-judge Special Court, constituted under Criminal Law (Amendment) Act 1976, said so far they had treated Musharraf not even under Article 204 of the Constitution (contempt of court), let alone the other laws. He remarked that they could not suspend the proceedings in view of the Islamabad district court attack and security threats.
The courtroom atmosphere got all charged up when one of Musharraf’s lawyers called the judges ‘contract killers’. Rana Ijaz also claimed he had received two calls from Lyari gangs, threatening him for “being rude with Justice Faisal Arab”.
Justice Faisal Arab was visibly very annoyed with Rana Ijaz’s statement. He called the security to take him out of the court, but surprisingly none from the police, Rangers or Anti-Terrorism Squad complied.
Justice Faisal Arab even asked Sharif-ud-Din Pirzada, another of Mush’s senior counsel, to ask his team member to sit down. He also ignored the judge’s refrain.
Justice Faisal then asked Rana Ijaz to apologise, otherwise the court would pass (contempt) order. “We don’t know whether Musharraf’s counsel are misbehaving on instructions from their client or on their own,” the judge said.
As Mush’s lawyers Anwar Mansoor and Ahmed Raza Kasuri referred to the letter written by Naeemul Haq Hashmi, National Crisis Management Cell (NCMC) Director, the court summoned the interior secretary. Appearing in the court at 11:30am, Interior Secretary Shahid Khan said the letter was based on intelligence agencies’ reports. He added that as it was his duty to inform all the law-enforcement agencies, the letter was circulated among all the quarters concerned and also sent to Punjab and Islamabad police. He further said measures had been taken and security beefed up in the wake of the security threat while security personnel had been screened, combed and changed.
The court directed the interior secretary to make foolproof arrangements on March 14 in view of the threat.
Akram Sheikh, the lead prosecutor, informed the court that the security alert was issued by the NCMC director without the knowledge of the interior secretary and the interior minister. Justice Tahira Safdar remarked: “The NCMC is also part of the Interior Ministry.”
Musharraf’s lawyers showed a copy of the letter, saying the ex-president could not be produced before the court. Ahmed Raza Kasuri questioned what they could say if the complainant itself had expressed fear about Musharraf’s security.
Kasuri said Musharraf had been attacked twice in the past and the terrorists had also targeted ex-PM Shaukat Aziz and Aftab Sherpao. He said the court should see whether security was foolproof because ultimately the responsibility would be of the court that had summoned the ex-COAS. “If anything happens to Musharraf, the history will judge you,” he said. Justice Faisal Arab said: “If the history is to judge us, then leave it to the judges.”
Akram Sheikh contended security alert had been issued on the report of an intelligence agency. He sought the court orders for placing Musharraf into the government’s custody.
Mush’s lawyer Anwar Mansoor argued the terrorists had sympathisers in the security and the cavalcade. He said doubling or tripling the police force or giving them weapons would be of no use. Kasuri maintained that from the day one they had been raising the security issue, but the media termed it a bluff. He said somebody had to take cognizance of it when even the courts were not secure. He said human rights were above everything and even justice was subservient to human rights, so the court should respect this right of Musharraf.
The court would hear Musharraf’s application against appointment of Akram Sheikh as the main prosecutor Wednesday (today).
Since the trial began on December 24, 2013, it’s the fourth time the Special Court summoned Musharraf for indictment. Though Pervez Musharraf appeared on February 18, the court did not frame charges as Anwar Mansoor and Khalid Ranjha wanted the decision on the court’s jurisdiction and the judges’ bias first, which it announced last week.
NO PLAN TO ATTACK MUSHARRAF DURING CEASEFIRE: KHORASANI
Online adds: The Mohmand Agency chapter of the outlawed Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) on Tuesday rejected the government’s concerns that former President Pervez Musharraf might be attacked by terrorists affiliated with the TTP and al Qaeda.
TTP Mohmand Agency chief Omar Kharasani said they have no plan to attack the former president during the month-long ceasefire with the government.
On Monday, in a letter sent to the Home Secretary Punjab, Islamabad police chief, Chief Commissioner and other officials, the Interior Ministry warned that terrorists affiliated with the TTP and al Qaeda have planned to target Musharraf, who is currently facing treason charges in the near future.
The Interior Ministry warned that the attackers have planned to assassinate Musharraf inside or outside the court.
In addition, the Ministry advised extreme vigilance and fool-proof security measures be taken to avoid any untoward incident.