ISLAMABAD, May 4: The Islamabad High Court on Saturday gave the go-ahead for conducting the trial of former president retired General Pervez Musharraf at his farmhouse in Chak Shahzad near Islamabad. The farmhouse has already been declared a sub-jail.

The approval came shortly after the judge of an anti-terrorism court (ATC) expressed his inability to carry out the trial in the sub-jail without an order from the High Court.

The trial will begin after submission of a charge-sheet to the court by the prosecution wing of police.

Syed Kausar Abbas Zaidi, the ATC judge, had earlier exempted Gen Musharraf from personal appearance in the court after police said they were unable to ensure adequate security because of preoccupation with security arrangements for the elections.

The directive was issued by the judge during a hearing of the judges’ detention case. He also extended the judicial remand of Gen Musharraf for two weeks on the request of police.

But he made it clear that the exemption had been granted for one time only and directed the police to produce Gen Musharraf in the court on May 18.

Imran Feroz, the counsel for Mr Musharraf, told the court that his client was continuously receiving threats from unidentified persons since his return to the country in March.

The issue of providing him security during his appearances in court had been taken up with the police, but it had refused to deploy the required number of personnel for his security because they were busy in security arrangements for the polls, the lawyer said.

Mubarak Ali, the investigation officer, said because of threats to his life, the former army chief had been kept at his Chak Shahzad farmhouse.

He requested the court to extend the judicial remand of Gen Musharraf because the investigation was in progress.

CHARGE-SHEET TO TAKE TIME: Sources in the prosecution told Dawn that the submission of charge-sheet would take time because they had to examine members of Gen Musharraf’s cabinet.

During the investigation, they added, the former president had told interrogators that he had imposed the state of emergency on Nov 3, 2007, on the advice of his cabinet.

After imposition of the emergency, about 60 judges were put under house arrest across the country for more than five months.

Police registered the judges’ detention case on the complaint of a local advocate, Chaudhry Mohammad Aslam Ghumman, on August 11, 2009.

The sources said the prosecution had asked the cabinet division to provide names of the ministers whose brief statements would be included in the charge-sheet. Former prime minister Shaukat Aziz would also be quizzed, they added.

According to the sources, statements of the 60 judges will also be obtained which will comprise prime evidence against the former army chief.

The investigation officer would have to travel to different parts of the country to record statements of the judges because only six of them now lived in Islamabad, they said.

The remaining judges belonged to four provincial high courts and were detained in their cities.

“If the judges testify against Mr Musharraf, the prosecution may prepare a strong case against him. But if they don’t, benefit would go to him” the sources claimed.

Lawyers for Mr Musharraf filed a bail application in the court and the judge fixed a hearing for May 6, according to AFP.

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