ISLAMABAD  -   The Special Court hearing a treason case against former president General (Retd) Pervez Musharraf on Wednesday decided to proceed with the case in the absence of the accused.

“In view of the described state of facts and in compliance of the decision given by the Supreme Court for further proceedings of the trial a counsel is to be appointed to defend the accused as required by Section 9 of the Act 1976 (The Special Court Act),” the Special Court ruled in its 4-page written order.

It directed the Law Ministry to submit a Panel of Advocates for the purpose, along with the package of fee to be paid to the advocate, so appointed to enable the court to further proceed with the case.

A three-judge Special Bench headed by Chief Justice Balochistan High Court Justice Tahira Safdar hearing high treason case against Musharraf observed that the court proceedings could no longer be halted due to the accused’s illness.

The other members of the bench include Justice Nazar Akbar and Justice Shahid Karim.

The court also declared that Musharraf has lost the right to engage a counsel unless he surrenders. “In view of the established principle that a trial could not be held in abeyance or could be adjourned for an indefinite period coupled with findings of the Supreme Court, whereby it was held that the accused being fugitive from law, thus loses his right to audience, also lost to have an advocate appointed to defend him unless he surrenders himself before the court,” reads the written order.

“As decided by the Supreme Court, the learned counsel presently representing the accused neither could represent him nor could defend him [accused] with the exception the accused appears and surrenders himself before the court.” The decision came after the defence counsel said the former president and army chief was physically and mentally unfit to return to the country.

Maintaining that the former president was “underweight” and “fighting for his life”, Musharraf’s lawyer had requested for another exemption. “He is on a wheelchair and cannot walk,” he told the court.

The counsel said he was embarrassed to repeatedly seek adjournments but said Musharraf’s health had deteriorated sharply over recent months. He had requested for permission to record Musharraf’s statement via video link.

The court adjourned the hearing till June 27.

APP adds: During the course of proceedings, Salman Safdar, counsel for Pervez Musharraf, told the court that his client was having heart chemotherapy due to which his health had deteriorated.

Justice Tahira Safdar remarked that the Supreme Court had given a verdict. To which the lawyer responded that he was aware of that and requested the court that his plea be accepted on the basis of compassion.

The court asked the lawyer to read the verdict, in which the Supreme Court had directed the Special Court to proceed with the trial and in case the former president surrendered and appeared before it, he would be entitled to record his statement.

The Supreme Court in its decision further stated that if Pervez Musharraf failed to appear, being a PO (proclaimed offender), the Special Court was empowered to proceed against him even in his absence under Section 9 of the High Treason (Punishment) Act, 1973.

Dr Tariq Hassan, counsel for the prosecution, said the court had given Musharraf the chance to record his statement through a video link.

Justice Nazar Akbar asked if he wanted confirmation about Musharraf’s health, which the lawyer denied.

Justice Shahid Karim remarked that the court would look at whether or not to approve the request to adjourn the case. The prosecutor’s lawyer opposed the adjournment.

The court then rejected Musharraf’s plea to postpone the case and adjourned the hearing.