Former military ruler Pervez Musharraf. — File photo
ISLAMABAD: The special court constituted to try Gen (retd) Pervez Musharraf for treason on Wednesday ordered the former president to appear for the hearing of the case tomorrow whereas police presents its plan for the security of the former military strongman, DawnNews reported.
The bench initiated today's hearing without the former military ruler's presence and while ordering for his production in court also warned of issuing a ruling in case the former president failed to appear in court for the next hearing.
Musharraf’s counsel, Ahmed Raza Kasuri, said his client could not appear for the proceedings due to security threats and also cited that a kilogram of explosive material was recovered and defused near Musharraf’s Chak Shahzad farmhouse residence.
Kasuri added that the judiciary would be responsible if any untoward incident took place, adding that if a bombing occurred, everyone, including the judges of the special court, would be killed as a result.
Responding to which, Justice Faisal Arab, who is heading the special court, cautioned Kasuri to not threaten the court, adding that the counsel's point had been noted.
Kasuri said the court seemed "more like Shakespearen theatre" as opposed to a special court, adding that Akram Shaikh, chief prosecutor in the case, was a crony of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
In response to the remark, Shaikh said he could speak a hundred times louder than Kasuri, adding that if the court declares him biased, he would part from his role of chief prosecutor.
Also during the proceedings, Justice Faisal said the court could not stop its proceedings on account of security concerns.
Moreover, Musharraf's other counsel Anwar Mansoor said all those who aided the violation of the Constitution should be considered guilty just as well.
Mansoor accused Prime Minister Sharif for holding bias and retributive motivations against the former army strongman.
Also today, Musharraf's legal team filed a plea in the special court to exempt him from appearing before it today on account of threats to his security.
The application was filed today when Musharraf had been summoned by the special court which was expected to indict the former dictator the same day. His lawyers cited threats to his security as the reason to request the exemption.
In another application, Musharraf's legal team also requested the court to adjourn the case for a period of five weeks.
It alleged that the federal government had failed to put adequate security measures in place for the former president.
The application added that Musharraf had called for the Nov 3, 2007 emergency in his capacity as the country's military chief, adding that he could only be tried by a military court in that respect as opposed to by the special court as it had been formed.
After hearing the arguments of Musharraf's lawyers, Justice Arab remarked that only one counsel for the former military dictator should appear in the next hearing of the case to avoid a state of confusion.
Moreover, Islamabad's Inspector General of Police also appeared in court and informed the bench of the plans regarding the security for Gen (r) Musharraf.
He added that a thousand police personnel were deputed on the route from Mushharf's farmhouse to the court.
The bench adjourned the hearing over the case until January 2.
Top security for Musharraf’s court appearance
Top security arrangements had been made for Musharraf’s scheduled appearance before the special court.
The Pakistani Taliban have made repeated threats to kill the man who led Pakistan into its alliance with Washington's “war on terror”.
The arrangements made for his security include ‘box security’ and combing and scanning of the entire route before his departure from his farmhouse in Chak Shahzad to National Library in the Red Zone where the court was set up.
Hundreds of policemen, along with a contingent of commandos and Rangers personnel were part of the security measures for the former president. Deputy Inspector General of Police (Security) was to monitor all security measures, including a motorcade of personnel, along with jammers, a fire engine and an ambulance.
Police personnel had also been deployed and personnel of the bomb disposal squad combed the entire route and areas adjacent to it. Police and Rangers personnel were also deployed around the special court. Containers were also placed around the National Library.
The treason charge
Musharraf stands accused over his imposition of emergency rule in Nov 2007, but he and his legal team have dismissed the charge as politically motivated.
Conviction could mean the death penalty or life imprisonment for Musharraf, who has faced a series of criminal cases since returning from self-imposed exile in March.
He is the first former army chief to go on trial in Pakistan.
Musharraf on Sunday denounced the treason case as a “vendetta” against him and claimed he had the backing of the military.
“I would say the whole army is upset. I have led the army from the front,” he told reporters at his farmhouse.
“I have no doubt with the feedback that I received that the whole army is... totally with me on this issue.”
There has been no public comment on the case from the army, but some observers say they are reluctant to have their former chief suffer the indignity of trial in a civilian court.
The treason case is the latest in a series of criminal cases faced by Musharraf since he returned to Pakistan in a thwarted bid to run in May's general election. These include murder charges over the assassination in late 2007 of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto.
The treason case was due to start on Dec 24 but had to be delayed after police found explosives and a detonator on Musharraf's route to court. A second scare came on Monday when more explosives were found on the same road. It is unclear who left either set of explosives, which were not made up into bombs.
In a similar mysterious episode in April, a car with explosives stuffed into its doors and seats was found near Musharraf's farmhouse on the same day he appeared in court over the Benazir Bhutto murder case.