ISLAMABAD: An additional district and sessions judge on Saturday issued non-bailable warrants for the arrest of former president retired Gen Pervez Musharraf for his ‘deliberate’ absence from the proceedings of the murder case of Lal Masjid cleric Abdul Rashid Ghazi.

The judge, Pervaizul Qadir Memon, observed that the conduct of the accused (Musharraf) shows “he is bent upon not to appear before the trial court deliberately and intentionally to face the trial in person and is seeking justice while in his drawing room.”

In September 2013, the Aabpara police registered an FIR against Gen Musharraf on the direction of the Islamabad High Court (IHC). Haroon Rashid, the son of Abdul Rashid Ghazi, had filed a petition with the IHC seeking legal action against the former military ruler for launching a military operation on Lal Masjid. His father Rashid Ghazi and grandmother Sahib Khatoon were killed in the operation.

Local court also directed guarantors to ensure ex-military ruler’s presence in court on March 16 in Lal Masjid’s cleric murder case

The military operation was launched in July 2007 after the civil administration failed to get a children’s library on the premises of Lal Masjid vacated from the possession of the mosque administration.

In April 2013, a commission held Gen Musharraf, the then prime minister Shaukat Aziz and his political allies responsible for the military operation in which 103 people were killed.

During a recent public appearance in the sessions court of Islamabad, Maulana Abdul Aziz, a cleric of Lal Masjid and the elder brother of Rashid Ghazi, announced that he was ready to pardon Gen Musharraf for the military operation. The announcement, however, annoyed some of his close aides, including Tariq Asad Advocate, who is pleading the Rashid Ghazi murder case on behalf of the complainant. Haroon Rashid had nominated Gen Musharraf as the sole accused in the case.

After completing the investigation, the Aabpara police in its challan submitted to the court placed Gen Musharraf in column No 2. This column is used for an accused who the investigation officer considers innocent but does not discharge him on his own and wants the court to decide his fate.

Since the proceedings in the murder case commenced in the trial court, Gen Musharraf moved several applications seeking an exemption from personal appearances. The trial court in April 2015 rejected his exemption plea and on June 19 and July 24, 2015, issued his non-bailable arrest warrants.

Gen Musharraf through his counsel challenged the trial court order and the issuance of the warrants saying that he could not personally appear in the court due to an ailment.

Malik Tahir Mehmood, the counsel for Musharraf, also submitted a medical report to the court in support of the arguments seeking his client’s exemption.

Advocate Tariq Asad, on the other hand, argued before the court that the accused should not be exempted from personal hearing “on flimsy grounds of his health condition. He (Musharraf) is very much healthy and has been appearing in different TV talk-shows.” He contended that “the accused is considering himself above the law and has no regards and respect for the orders of the courts.”

ADSJ Pervaizul Qadir Memon noted that under Section 540-A of the CrPC, the court may dispense with the personal attendance to an accused if there are two or more suspects being tried in a case. But since Gen Musharraf is the sole accused in the murder case, the section of the CrPC cannot be applied, he added.

The judge observed that the counsel for Gen Musharraf “has miserably failed to substantiate his prayer for exemption of accused from personal attendance before the trial court with tangible and cogent reasons, therefore, the application (seeking exemption) stands dismissed.” The court order said: “The non-bailable warrants of petitioner (Musharraf) be issued for March 16, 2016.”

The court also issued show-cause notices to those who had submitted surety bonds in favour of Gen Musharraf and directed them to ensure his presence on the next date of proceedings.

Published in Dawn, February 21st, 2016