To be executed if he fails to appear in court on March 31

The special court trying former President General (retd) Pervez Musharraf for high treason on Friday issued non -baliable warrants to be executed on the morning of March 31, if he fails to come to court of his own volition.

While the court had summoned Gen Musharraf for indictment on Friday, his lawyer made an application seeking exemption due to security risks.

The court heard arguments from the defence and the prosecution and passed an order instructing the Secretary, Ministry of Interior in coordination with the security agencies to ensure that all the necessary measures for the safe journey of Gen Musharraf to and from the court are taken for the next date. In the lights of the threats disclosed in the letter of the Ministry of interior dated March 10, the court directed the secretary of the ministry to be present on March 31.

The order said that in view of the laws governing the matter the accused is required for proceeding with the case and "it is trite that a criminal case cannot be kept dormant where an accused is available to stand trial." It ordered non- bailable warrants for the production of the accused to be executed by the Inspector General of Police, Islamabad or any other officer designated by him. The court said the warrants would be executed early in the morning of March 31 if the accused refused to appear on his own volition. The court will hear the pending applications on March 20.

Earlier, defence lawyer Anwar Mansoor Khan submitted an application seeking exemption of the accused citing the threat alert issued by the Ministry of Interior on March 10. He said before Gen Musharraf appears there should be proper screening of the security personnel accompanying him and this process takes about six weeks and not 72 hours. Till such time Gen Musharraf should be exempted from making an appearance in court, he demanded.

Special public prosecutor Akram Sheikh opposed this plea and said that the government had deployed 2500 personnel and three different routes were worked out for Musharraf's journey to court. His personal security was chosen by him since he was not under arrest. Mr. Sheikh said the deployment of security personnel had exceeded Rs 20 crores for the last eight hearings and this had never happened in the recorded history of Pakistan. He said these were delaying tactics and suggested that the trial must proceed and the charges can be read out to the attorney representing him. Gen Musharraf's presence was not a prerequisite, he added. This was opposed by Mr. Khan who said that reading out charges to the counsel was alien to criminal law as the charges have to read out to the accused when he appears before the court.