Pakistan court warns Musharraf of arrest

Islamabad, Jan 1: A special court in Pakistan, hearing a high treason case against former military ruler Pervez Musharraf, Wednesday warned that it could issue a warrant for his arrest if he failed to appear Thursday.

Musharraf failed Wednesday for the second time in 10 days to appear before the three-member bench and the court adjourned the proceedings for a day, Xinhua reported.

The government had initiated treason charges against the former military president for suspending, subverting and abrogating the Constitution, imposing an emergency in the country in November 2007 and detaining judges of the superior courts. Legal experts say the charges carry death penalty or life imprisonment.

The court had summoned Musharraf to formally frame charges of high treason against him, but his defence lawyers told the court that the former president could not appear because of threats to his life.

The Islamabad police chief told the court that tight security arrangements have been made for the former president and that nearly 1,000 security personnel have been deployed on the route from Musharraf’s house to the court.

He also said a bullet-proof vehicle had been provided for Musharraf, but said the Islamabad police did not have bomb-proof vehicles.

The police earlier claimed the arrest of two suspects from a roadside restaurant on Musharraf’s route early Wednesday.

They had also said that they had recovered explosives near Musharraf’s house and on the route to court over the past few days.

Justice Faisal Arab, who heads the special court, ordered that the former president must be produced Thursday as the court has already issued summons for his appearance.

He said the court does not want to issue arrest warrant for Musharraf as he is a former president and the judges do not want to insult him.

Special Prosecutor Akram Sheikh also insisted that the accused should be produced and that Musharraf’s lawyers should specify what kind of security they wanted for their client.

As the court’s proceedings started, Musharraf’s lawyers raised objections to the formation and powers of the special court and argued that the prime minister could not nominate judges for a court.

The court said it would give a ruling on its composition and jurisdiction Thursday.

The defence lawyers also requested the court to delay the hearing by five weeks. However, their request was turned down.

They had earlier tried to stop the trial on the plea that the special court had no power to try a former army chief and that a military court can try him under the army act.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had announced in June the high treason case against the former military president would be initiated for suspending the constitution. The decision had evoked mixed reactions as critics were of the view that Pakistan faced serious challenges and could not afford such a trial.

Musharraf had taken over in a bloodless coup when he had dismissed the government of Nawaz Sharif in 1999.

The 70-year-old former army chief currently lives in his farmhouse in Islamabad after getting bail in three high profile cases, including the 2007 assassination of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto.

Musharraf, who had resigned in 2008 and gone into exile, returned to Pakistan in March this year to take part in parliamentary elections. However, a court disqualified him from standing in the May elections.

IANS