ISLAMABAD - Defence Minister Khwaja Asif on Wednesday claimed that former president Pervez Musharraf was apologising to the government and seeking permission to leave the country.

“He is willing to come down to any level to get out of the situation,” the minister said of the former president in a TV interview.

This is the first time that a senior minister has claimed that the former president is apologising to the government, although the former military ruler had filed an application to the special court for permission to go out of the country for treatment.

Musharraf has been staying at the Armed Forces Institute of Cardiology, Rawalpindi, since January 2 because of ‘heart ailment’. The special court has summoned him for March 31. However, it is not clear whether the former president would show up.

The defence minister was asked what if Musharraf did not turn up. “He must not go scot-free,” replied Khwaja Asif. He said everybody was equal before the law and the state must demonstrate that there was rule of law in the country. The defence minister alleged that Musharraf was facing no medical problem and was hiding at the AFIC only to escape legal proceedings.

He said that Musharraf should face the law after what he did to the country during his tenure. All those who had been cooperating with him should also be held accountable, said the defence minister. In particular, he said, former prime minister Shaukat Aziz should be made to face the law as he was the major beneficiary of Musharraf. It is Shaukat Aziz who is providing information about the bank accounts of Musharraf, the minister claimed.

On the other hand, Musharraf’s lawyer Ahmed Raza Kasuri strongly refuted the defence minister’s claims, saying: “Neither his client has offered any apology nor he ever would.”

Talking to TheNation, Kasuri said that Musharraf was not like the Sharifs who had left the country after signing an agreement. He said that Musharraf had been at the AFIC for the past 80 days, which was an important signal for the people of understanding.  He did not elaborate.

Asked if Musharraf would appear before the special court on March 31, Kasuri said, “Only an astrologer can answer this question.” He claimed that the government and establishment were not on the same page on the issue of Musharraf’s trial under Article 6. “The Armed Forces would never like their former boss indicted under Article 6.”