The special court trying former Pakistan president General (Retd) Pervez Musharraf for high treason on Thursday directed him to appear on January 16 failing which it would pass appropriate orders.
The three-member court headed by Justice Faisal Arab in its order after hearing both sides in the morning, said that the reason for Mr. Musharraf’s non-appearance was that he suffered a heart attack on his way to the court. His medical report does not disclose that the discomfort was due to a heart ailment, the court said in its order.
The report also does not bear out that he had a heart attack. The court had condoned his inability to appear solely due to his being hospitalised despite no requests from the defence, the order said. The court was also constrained to call for a report from the Armed Forces Institute of Cardiology (AFIC) where Musharraf is admitted. The judges noted that the report does not suggest that he is unable to appear in court and also he had not sought exemption. The accused has failed to comply with the orders and accordingly he was directed to appear on January 16, the order said.
When the trial began on December 24, Mr. Musharraf sought exemption on the grounds of security. At the next hearing on January 1, there was a bomb scare again. On January 2, he developed a heart problem en route the court and was admitted to AFIC. The medical report was submitted in court on January 7 and it was then decided to pass orders today after copies were given to both parties. When proceedings opened Senior defence counsel Sharifuddin Pirzada expressed strong reservations about Musharraf’s medical report being made public and said it was a private matter. He pointed out that both a coronary angiography and a bypass- which have been suggested for the former President, are difficult procedures and it was upto the individual to decide what course of treatment he wanted to pursue. He also made a reference to the fact the special public prosecutor Akram Sheikh had sought treatment abroad.
Mr. Sheikh in his turn asked if only the ailments of clients were confidential and it was uncharitable to refer to his illnesses. He denied that the leakage of the medical report was from his office. He demanded that the court issue summons to Musharraf as he could not be exempted on the grounds of the medical report. There was no categorical opinion in it and it does not indicate any disability or apprehended damage if he came to court. He said calcification of the arteries was bound to be there considering the age of the accused but Musharraf’s blood pressure was that of “a young man and his pulse rate that of a sportsman.”
Mr. Sheikh pointed out that Musharraf was in AFIC for so many days and yet no coronary angiography was done. Does this point to an emergency? he asked. He submitted that the accused has to come and the charges have to be read out to him. After that he can authorise someone to be present on his behalf while the evidence is being presented.
The question is if Mr. Musharraf is disabled or if even attending half an hour of court is dangerous to his life? he reiterated. He said that while coming to court Musharraf’s vehicle was diverted to the hospital and quoted newspaper reports as saying that the route to Rawalpindi where AFIC is located was already secured by the police. It was not a sudden diversion, he added.
Mr. Musharraf was not confined to his hospital bed- he had visitors, including his legal counsels, and received over 1500 flower bouquets, Mr. Sheikh told the court. He also referred to an order passed in 2002 by Musharraf himself which said that all cardiac ailments should be treated in the country itself.
The court will rule on the applicability of the Criminal Procedure Code to these proceedings on Friday.