ISLAMABAD: Former military ruler retired Gen Pervez Musharraf finally appeared before the Special Court on Tuesday and was allowed to ‘escape’ once again without treason charges having been framed against him.
The three-judge court headed by Justice Faisal Arab of the Sindh High Court deferred the framing of charges and said these would be read out once the court announced its judgement on Friday on whether or not the Special Court had the jurisdiction to try the retired general for treason.
The court will summon him again if the charges are to be framed.
The defence team has argued that Gen Musharraf should be tried by a military and not the special court.
The former president has avoided attending 22 consecutive hearings since the high treason case commenced in December.
As he turned up on Tuesday, extraordinary security arrangements were in place. Police had placed special jammers on both sides of the judges inside the courtroom. Extra police commandos and special contingents of anti-riot units were deployed around and inside the courtroom.
Wearing a black ‘kurta’ with a matching coat and a white ‘shalwar’, Gen Musharraf appeared confident when he entered the courtroom a few minutes before the hearing was about to end. His lawyers clapped as he reached his seat which was placed near the witness box. Some of the senior lawyers used the opportunity to introduce their younger colleagues to Musharraf.
Ahmed Raza Kasuri, one of Musharraf’s lawyers, later told the media that this was the surprise he was talking about a couple of weeks back.
After Musharraf’s arrival, the court asked Anwar Mansoor Khan, the counsel for the former military ruler, who was arguing, where the accused was.
Advocate Khan informed the court that Gen Musharraf was present in the courtroom.
At this Gen Musharraf stood up again (like all others, he stood up earlier when the judges walked in) and saluted the judges. He stood up for a while till Justice Arab said, “Mr Musharraf, you can take your seat”.
Gen Musharraf seemed taken aback and his confidence shattered when Mohammad Akram Sheikh, head of the prosecution team, demanded that the court indict Musharraf for high treason. “The charges against the accused should be read out and then I will give consent for exempting him from further proceedings till the disposal of the applications filed by him,” he said.
It is important to note that Gen Musharraf has filed three applications that have challenged the appointment of the head of the prosecution team, the establishment and the jurisdiction of the Special Court. His team has said more than once that till these applications are not heard and decided, his trial cannot begin.
Advocate Sheikh said: “The question of jurisdiction of the Special Court can be decided later on and the court can read the charges against the accused as provided in the law.”
According to him, under the special court law and the criminal procedure code (CrPC), the charges against an accused must be read out the day he appears before the court.
He said the prosecution had already sent copies of the statement of charges to the accused two and a half months back and he had probably read them. Therefore, the court could start its process without any further delay.
While Advocate Sheikh was trying to convince the judges for indicting Musharraf, the former military ruler was hearing his arguments. But the defence lawyers intervened at this stage and reminded the bench that unless the jurisdiction of the court was decided, Gen Musharraf could not be indicted.
The court deferred the matter relating to the indictment of Musharraf till Friday when it is likely to pass an order on the application in which the defence lawyers have challenged its jurisdiction.
The court also directed retired Major General Rashid Qureshi, guarantor of Gen Musharraf, to appear before it on each date of hearing till the disposal of the applications.