The Supreme Court on Wednesday gave retired Gen Pervez Musharraf until tomorrow afternoon to present himself while delivering a withering rebuke to the former army strongman for his continued absence from court.
Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Mian Saqib Nisar, who is heading a three-judge bench hearing Musharraf's appeal against his 2013 disqualification by the Peshawar High Court, warned that if the former president does not show up in court by 2pm tomorrow, a decision will be taken in absentia on his eligibility to contest elections.
Last week, the SC had issued a directive permitting Musharraf to file nomination papers for the July 25 general elections on the condition that he appear in person before the court on June 13 (today) in Lahore to attend a hearing.
The court had made clear that the fate of Musharraf's nomination papers would be subject to the final decision in the present case.
Although Musharraf's nomination papers for Chitral's NA-1 seat were submitted earlier this week, the former military ruler did not appear in court today despite SC orders that his national identity card (CNIC) and passport be unblocked in order to facilitate his travel.
"The Supreme Court is not bound to Musharraf's terms," the CJP remarked today after the former's counsel insisted on blanket guarantees for his security. "We've already said that if Musharraf returns, he will be provided with security. We are not bound to also provide a written guarantee in this regard."
"If he doesn't return, the scrutiny of his nomination papers will not be permitted," Justice Nisar warned.
Musharraf's lawyer prayed that the former president's nomination papers for the 2013 election be restored since the high court verdict on the basis of which they were rejected had been made in absentia.
He told the court that the former military ruler is ready to face an ongoing treason case against him, but he should be provided a guarantee of protection.
"He has Parkinson's disease, so a medical board will need to be set up," Musharraf's lawyer said, to which the chief justice said the court would form a medical board if Musharraf returns in an air ambulance.
"What [other] assurance do you want from the Supreme Court: that treason proceedings will not take place against him?" the annoyed CJP asked.
"If Pervez Musharraf is a commando, he should show us by returning instead of continuously parroting like a politician that he will return," the CJP said.
"Why does Musharraf need protection, what is he so afraid of?" the CJP wondered. "How can a commando be so afraid? Musharraf has said that he evaded death many times but was never afraid," he remarked. "He didn't feel afraid when he was taking over this country," the top judge added.
"If Musharraf is ailing, how will he show [us] his fist?" he asked, in a reference to the infamous gesture of defiance the former dictator made on May 12, 2007 while Karachi was turned into a bloody battlefield to intimidate the then recently suspended chief justice, Iftikhar Chaudhry, into returning to Islamabad.
"Musharraf should face the Constitution, the law, the nation and the courts," Justice Nisar asserted.
"The court will examine whether to give Musharraf permission to come and go, and whether his name should be placed on the Exit Control List (ECL) or not," CJP Nisar said.
The top judge said that the former military dictator should return and face the cases against him for suspension of the Constitution and treason.
"The SC did not give Musharraf permission to travel abroad," the CJP claimed. "This permission was granted by the government, which took his name off the ECL. The SC decision [in this regard] was taken the wrong way," he said.
Special court set up for treason trial
A special court has been set up to hear the Musharraf treason trial.
A notification issued today said that the "federal government in consultation with the CJP appoint Justice Muhammad Yawar Ali, chief justice of the Lahore High Court, as president, and Justice Nazar Akbar, a Sindh High Court judge as judge of the special court constituted... for trial of offence of high treason under the High Treason (Punishment) Act, 1973".