ISLAMABAD - Agencies - Finally on the 36th hearing of the high treason case the Special Court indicted the former military dictator for holding in abeyance the Constitution on November 3, 2007.

Former president-general Pervez Musharraf was read out the charges to which he pleaded not guilty but signed the charge-sheet. The court directed him to approach interior ministry for clearing his name from ECL as neither it has ordered to place his name on ECL and nor it could direct for its removal.

The order said: “The Special Court constituted under Section 4 of the Criminal Law Amendment (Special Court) Act 1976 is not a constitutional court but a statutory court exercising powers as a criminal court therefore can only exercise statutory powers.”

The 70-year-old former Commando, attired in light brown shalwar kamiz and black coat, appeared before the three-judge court, headed by Justice Faisal Arab, in tight security and straightway sat in the dock. One minute after his arrival the judges came to the courtroom and the ex-army chief stood up in respect of them and saluted.

In his 24 minutes address, after reading of charges, Musharraf expressed concern over calling him traitor. He asked if it were treason to shed blood and give life for the country and whether the people sitting in the parliament are ‘Sadiq’ and ‘Ameen’. “I strongly believe in the supremacy of law and the equality before the eyes of the law.” He said he appeared before court ‘today’ (Monday) and on February on his own will and against the advice of the doctors.

Justice Tahira Safdar read out the charges to Pervez Musharraf, who pleaded not guilty to each charge, but signed the charge-sheet. Though he denied the charges but in his 24 minutes address in the court he admitted that he, on the advice of the then Prime Minister (Shaukat Aziz) and cabinet and the consultation and consent of all the stakeholders, took November 3, 2007 action and imposed emergency in the country.

Earlier, Dr Farogh Naseem advocate filed vakalatnama on behalf of Musharraf. No one from Musharraf’s previous team was present in the court during the hearing, which surprised everyone. The sources said that the former general in view of their poor performance had stopped them to represent him at Monday’s proceedings. He reportedly took this decision late last night.

Dr Farogh thrice requested the court to adjourn the case on the grounds that he had been engaged yesterday (Sunday) and needed time to prepare the case. Justice Faisal Arab, however, told him that under Section 6 of the Criminal Law Amendment Act 1976 the charges have to be read out to the accused when he appears before the court.

Farogh also prayed the court to exempt the former president and allow him to go abroad as his 94-year-old mother is seriously ill and admitted in a hospital in Dubai. He also cited various judgments and given summary of various Quranic verses and hadith of Prophet (PBUH) that the accused should be allowed to go abroad to see his ailing mother and he would come back.

Prosecutor Akram Sheikh contested the plea to allow the accused go abroad. He however wished Musharraf complete health and fullest recovery of his mother and him. He said: “I could feel the importance of mother because I have lost my mother.”

The court in its order said Musharraf can go anywhere and get medical treatment at a medical facility of his choice. But it did not exempt him from appearing before the court, saying, “The accused is required to appear before the court as and when required and can seek exemption from appearance on justifiable grounds.”

Prosecutor Sheikh said that none of the charges read out to Musharraf say that he was disloyal to the Pakistan. He said this is not the case of treason or corruption or disloyalty but the violation of the constitution. “No one has to transgress the boundary of the constitution,” said and he added the court has to see it.

He said though the accused had denied all the charges, but accepted that Nov 3 step was taken on the advice of the cabinet. He said the accused had breached his oath. “We are not saying that he sold secrets of the country but can the chief army staff proclaim emergency and hold the constitution in abeyance?” The case was adjourned until April 15. At the end of the hearing, Sheikh went to Musharraf and shook hand with him and inquired about his mother’s health. He said, “I am not biased.” Musharraf asked him then why did he oppose his applications.

Musharraf in his speech said traitors are those who had been sucking the blood of nation, emptied the public exchequer, filled up their own coffers, gave poverty to the country and pushed it toward destruction. He said during his tenure there were $17 billion in the national exchequer, but now only $3 billion are left. He said during his regime for the first in history Pakistan’s loan was reduced from $40 billion to $37 billion. “The impression highlighted in media that I don’t want to appear before the court is wrong. I have no ego problem.”

Ahmed Raza Kasuri, a member of Musharraf’s defence team, termed Monday’s proceeding as “T-20 match” saying that the former general has hit a huge six by appearing before the special court. Talking to media here outside National Library, where special court indicted Musharraf, Kasuri said the proceeding was like a fast 20/20 match adding that his legal team would change its strategy after every single ball. He said his client was a brave man who is never afraid of anything.

Kasuri said he was still consul of former president in this case adding that today he acted as chief coordinator of Musharraf legal team. He said the legal team was in permanent contact with new consul member Farogh Naseem therefore he was fully aware of every point of this case. Kasuri said he was pleased to hear remarks of prosecutor Akram Sheikh in which he said that treason charges against Musharraf were not fair.

Interior secretary on December 12 had filed the complaint along with the five charges against Musharraf. According to it, firstly, in Nov 2007, in his capacity as Chief of Army Staff (COAS), he issued a proclamation in his own name to hold the constitution in abeyance. Secondly, Musharraf in his capacity as Commander-in-Chief of Pakistan Army by adopting unconstitutional means abrogated/subverted/suspended/held in abeyance the constitution by issuing the Proclamation.

Thirdly, Musharraf as self-appointed COAS on Nov 3, 2007 also issued Provisional Constitution Order (PCO). Fourthly, he issued Provisional Constitution (Amendment) Order 2007, which also abrogated, subverted and suspended the letter and spirit of various provisions of the constitution. Fifthly, by issuing Constitution (Second Amendment) Order, 2007 he further amended Article 41, 44, 193, 194, 208 and 270C of the constitution.