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Medical board be formed to assess Musharraf's condition: court

Updated January 16, 2014

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Police officers stand guard at the gate of the special court, formed to try Pervez Musharraf for treason in Islamabad. — Photo by Reuters
Police officers stand guard at the gate of the special court, formed to try Pervez Musharraf for treason in Islamabad. — Photo by Reuters

ISLAMABAD: A special court hearing treason charges against Gen (retd) Pervez Musharraf has ordered the formation of a medical board to assess the former dictator’s health and submit a report by Jan 24.

The three judge-panel gave the order on Thursday after Musharraf failed to appear in court yet again and his lawyers told the court that the retired general needed medical treatment in the United States.

In a letter submitted to the special court, doctors recommended that Musharraf be treated at the Paris Regional Medical Center in Paris, Texas.

“We have attached a letter with the documents from the doctors of a heart clinic in Texas and they have recommended that he should be shifted to that clinic for further treatment,” lawyer Mansoor Ali Khan told the tribunal.

The letter, signed by the Director of Interventional Cardiology at the Texas center, Arjumand Hashmi, asked that Musharraf be transferred to the hospital.

Musharraf was taken to the Armed Forces Institute of Cardiology (AFIC), where he is currently being kept, after falling ill while traveling to the special treason tribunal two weeks ago.

The 70-year-old has yet to appear in person before the three-judge panel, after missing repeated hearings due to the health scare.

Earlier on Jan 9, the special court, comprising of Justice Faisal Arab of the Sindh High Court, Justice Tahira Safdar of the Balochistan High Court and Justice Yawar Ali of the Lahore High Court, had rejected the excuse of Musharraf’s absence on medical grounds and summoned him on Jan 16 (today) for indictment. The court had also warned that it would issue an order against the former army chief if he failed to appear before it on Jan 16.

After hearing arguments of his counsel today, the three-judge panel granted Musharraf exemption from appearance at proceedings until Jan 23 but ordered that a medical board of AFIC doctors be formed to independently assess his medical condition.

The hearing was subsequently adjourned to Friday.

Also on Thursday, the Islamabad High Court (IHC) rejected a petition for a restraining order against the exemption of the former president’s appearance at the special court.

The IHC bench said that it did not possess the legal authority to review or revoke a decision issued by the special court. Justice Riaz Ahmed Khan – who was heading the bench – remarked that it was impossible for the IHC to interfere in the jurisdiction of the special court.

Aside from the treason allegations, Musharraf also faces trial over the assassination of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, the killing of Baloch nationalist leader Nawab Akbar Bugti, a deadly raid on Lal Masjid and the detention of superior court judges.

Rumours have circulated for months that a backroom deal would be struck to whisk him overseas to avoid a destabilising clash between the government, which brought the charges, and the armed forces.

Musharraf's camp says the treason allegations, which relate to his imposition of emergency rule in Nov 2007, are politically motivated, and his lawyers have challenged the authority of the tribunal.

But the former commando has said he wants to stay and fight the charges.