Special court warns Musharraf

The special court on Wednesday once again summoned former President Pervez Musharraf to appear on Thursday failing which it would be forced pass an order regulating his custody. The court is conducting a trial of high treason under Article 6 of the Constitution against the former military ruler.

Justice Faisal Arab said that last time the court had granted a onetime exemption to Gen. Musharraf and yet again there is a bomb scare and the accused feels his journey from his residence to the court will not be safe. Responding to Gen. Musharraf not appearing for the second time, Justice Arab who is heading the three member court said as a matter of indulgence the court was granting him another exemption. Earlier he said since he was former president, it did not want to humiliate him by issuing a warrant for his arrest but if he does not appear on Thursday then the law will take its course. He has not sought bail either, the court pointed out. In the last hearing he said being a former President and ex-Army chief the court chose not to issue a warrant, and issued a summons instead so he can come without embarrassment.

Defence lawyer Ahmed Raza Kasuri said Musharraf was willing to come to court even the last time but there were security hassles and even on Wednesday there was a bomb scare. He said there were TV reports of explosive material found near Bani Gala which is close to Gen. Musharraf’s farmhouse. The court is responsible if anything happened to the former president and it has to ensure his safety, he said. Justice Arab told him not to threaten the court. Mr. Kasuri continued by saying that if there is a blast in court everyone will be killed. The venue (the National Library auditorium) is not secure, he submitted saying it looks more like a Shakespearian theatre and not a court. He said there were many episodes where people have been killed, for example Liaqat Ali , Benazir Bhutto, Rajiv Gandhi and Sheikh Mujibur Rehman. Justice Arab said courts functioned even in war time and it cannot keep cases on hold. Last week the court had asked the registrar to ensure that adequate security arrangements were made for Gen. Musharraf.

Earlier the Inspector-General (Security) Jan Mohammed who was called on to make a statement told the court that the police had made the best arrangements “within our resources”. He said there were resource constraints, to which the court said that it was not a good enough answer. He said the police did not have bullet or bombproof vehicles.

At the end of the hearing, Inspector General Islamabad Sikandar Hayat said that 1,000 men were deployed including Pakistan Rangers on security detail for Gen. Musharraf apart from other special security forces including the bomb disposal squad, and the police were doing what is humanly possible.

On Thursday, the court, apart from indicting Gen. Musharraf if he makes an appearance, will also decide on the petitions filed by the defence challenging the constitution of the court and if the Criminal Procedure Code applies to the special court. Anwar Mansoor argued on behalf of the defence that the judges had a bias against their client and they would not ensure a fair trial. He also said the notification appointing the special court was illegal. The complaint against Gen. Musharraf was filed in the court by the secretary interior ministry and the police were directly under him, so the defence had no faith in the police, he submitted. Mr. Mansoor said that on the last date when he left the capital to go to Lahore his car was attacked and the police refused to register a complaint. He asked the court why it was proceeding with the case when the defence counsels were being attacked. He said a black car with tinted glasses without a number plate had rammed into his vehicle and it was a total loss. Later the court directed him to file a police complaint with the concerned senior superintendent of police.

Special Public prosecutor Akram Sheikh later told reporters that Gen. Musharraf has been summoned again and he can either apply for bail, or surrender. The court has to indict him in the case. The defence also filed a contempt of court application against the Prime Minister for a statement in the media quoting him as saying that the Supreme Court judgment holding that the Provisional Constitutional Order (PCO) promulgated by Gen. Musharraf was unconstitutional was the most important evidence if any in the trial under Article 6 of the Constitution against Gen. Musharraf. The defence said that the statement amounts to prejudice.