ISLAMABAD: The special court set up for treason trial of retired Gen Pervez Musharraf ordered the Armed Forces Institute of Cardiology (AFIC) on Thursday to constitute a medical board to assess the condition of the former president and to submit a report by Jan 24.

The former military ruler was rushed to the AFIC when he complained of heart problems while going to the special court on Jan 2.

The three-judge court headed by Justice Faisal Arab of the Sindh High Court issued the order after Anwar Mansoor Khan, counsel for Gen Musharraf, submitted a Jan 9 letter from an American cardiologist regarding the heart condition of the former army chief.

In his letter, Arjumand Hashmi, director of interventional cardiology at Paris Regional Medical Centre in Texas, suggested that Gen Musharraf be sent at the earliest to “our medical facility for further diagnostic and therapeutic treatment”.

“After reviewing the current reports it is clear that his (Musharraf’s) disease has progressed significantly. The findings of his current cardiac CT are alarming … these results show a significant amount of coronary artery heart disease which can result in major myocardial infarction (heart attack) and lead to cardiac mortality if left untreated,” said Dr Hashmi who has been Gen Musharraf’s physician since 2006.

Advocate Mansoor informed the court that because of ailment his client could not appear before it. He is in the AFIC and continues to receive medical treatment.

Mohammad Akram Sheikh, head of the prosecution team, alleged that the absence was deliberate and under the special court law the accused had lost the right of audience and liable to be punished accordingly. He argued that the court had condoned Gen Musharraf’s absence for a number of times since the commencement of the proceedings on Dec 24. He requested the court not to entertain the counsel for Gen Musharraf till his appearance and continue the proceedings without hearing the defence side.

In its order the court said: “In view of the conflicting stand of both the sides with regard to the failure of the accused to appear before this court, we are left with two options, either to presume that the accused is avoiding to appear before this court or to verify the state of health of the accused by constituting a medical board comprising senior doctors of the AFIC. “The accused is still hospitalised and has not yet been discharged. Therefore, we opt for constituting a medical board of senior doctors of the AFIC where the accused is said to be undergoing medical treatment. The board shall submit its report to his court by Jan 24, 2014.”

The court asked the AFIC authorities to answer three questions with regard to Gen Musharraf: “how precarious is the health condition of the accused which restricts his movement so as to prevent him from attending the court?; has the accused undergone any surgery or other medical procedure during his stay in the hospital or any surgery or medical procedure is planned to be undertaken during his hospitalisation?; and for how long the accused has been advised for further hospitalisation?”

The court said punitive measures, including arrest warrants or closing the right of audience for the accused as suggested by Advocate Akram Sheikh “shall be taken into consideration” after examining the opinion of the medical board.

JUDGE QUITS BENCH: Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui of the Islamabad High Court dissociated himself from a two-judge bench hearing appeals of Gen Musharraf challenging the constitution of the special court, selection of its judges and appointment of Akram Sheikh as head of the prosecution team. The pleas sought the trial of the former president by a military court. Justice Siddiqui referred the matter to IHC Chief Justice Mohammad Anwar Khan Kasi for the constitution of another bench after Ahmed Raza Kasuri, counsel for Gen Musharraf, objected to his inclusion in the bench which also includes Justice Noorul Haq N. Qureshi.

Advocate Kasuri alleged that the learned judge was unfavourable towards Gen Musharraf and recalled that instead of granting bail he had attracted the anti-terrorism act against the former president. He also said Justice Siddiqui had on June 4 recused himself from a bench hearing a post-arrest bail of Gen Musharraf in the judges’ detention case because of personal reasons.

An IHC official told Dawn that Chief Justice Anwar Kasi would constitute another bench for hearing the appeals.

Gen Musharraf filed the appeals after Justice Riaz Ahmed Khan had on Dec 23 dismissed the petitions seeking same relief.

ATC SUMMONS MUSHARRAF: Meanwhile, an anti-terrorism court in Islamabad ordered Gen Musharraf to personally appear before it on Jan 27. The special judge ATC also directed the interior ministry as well as the guarantors of Gen Musharraf to appear before the court on the day.

In its order, the court noted that Gen Musharraf, an accused in the judges’ detention case, repeatedly remained absent from the proceedings.

Ilyas Siddiqui, counsel for Gen Musharraf, had requested the court to exempt his client from personal appearance because of security reasons.

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