ISLAMABAD - Exempting ex-president Pervez Musharraf from personal appearance, the Special Court on Monday directed the Armed Forces Institute of Cardiology (AFIC) medical superintendent to produce the medical certificate of the former dictator’s illness today (Tuesday) at 11:30am.
As expected, the former COAS did not appear before the court due to his ailment while his counsels failed to produce a medical certificate or any document related to their client’s heart attack. Sharifud Din Pirzada, the lead defence counsel, told the court that ex-army commando was still in the hospital and was not likely to be discharged today (Monday).
Since the beginning of the trial on December 24, 2013, the court has granted exemption to Musharraf from appearance on four occasions. In the last hearing, the authorities, instead of producing the ex-president before the court, shifted him to AFIC due to the reported heart attack.
Lead Prosecutor Akram Sheikh said as the accused had not appeared before the court and his counsels had also not furnished any document regarding his non-appearance, the court should issue non-bailable arrest warrants for him.
The three-judge Special Court took 15-minute break to discuss it. Later, at 1:30pm, they issued direction to the medical superintendent or any official of AFIC to produce a medical certificate regarding Musharraf’s illness.
Anwar Mansoor, counsel for Musharraf, completed his arguments. He cited a reference on the applicability of Criminal Procedure Code to the (Special Court) Act 1976, but sought time to rebut the objections raised by the prosecutor side to his applications.
Akram Sheikh, objecting to the defence counsel’s applications, argued that the applicant first must appear in this court. He questioned why out of three well-equipped hospitals in Islamabad, which were only at the distance of five-minute drive, a hospital in Rawalpindi was selected. “A person can’t seek the hideout in AFIC,” he said and added the defence counsels were defending a fugitive of law.
Ahmed Raza Kasuri shouted at Akram Sheikh and said he was maligning the army. “You are representing the side which is maligning the institution,” he added.
Justice Faisal Arab, snubbing Ahmed Raza Kasuri, said: “You have no right to interrupt him. This amounts to interference in the proceedings.” Kasuri at that moment went out of the court, murmuring he would raise this issue in the press. Later, before TV cameras, he said in his style that the army was being maligned.
One of senior counsels of the defence team, during the proceedings, enjoyed sweet sleep and snored in the courtroom. He was awakened thrice.
Akram Sheikh also argued that in the Memo Commission case evidence was recorded through video link from London. He claimed the accused’s condition was not such that he could not appear before the court. He said the accused had been represented before the Special Court more than once.
He prayed to the court not to postpone or adjourn the case unnecessarily; there should not be vexatious delay. Delay can be for one week, but it should not be a marathon delay, he added. He contended there was nothing on the record about Musharraf’s illness. He stated that former chief of army staff Aslam Beg appeared before the Supreme Court in the case (Asghar Khan) for 176 times.
Sheikh said there was no exemption of appearance in the Criminal Law Amendment (Special Court) Act 1976, but the accused was constantly and perpetually flouting the order of the court. Section 9 of (Special Court) Act says: “No trial shall be adjourned by reason of absence of any accused for illness.” The lead prosecutor told the court that it was reported in media that the Rangers escorted Musharraf from his farm to AFIC. He added the accused’s counsels did not mention in the petitions that they had challenged jurisdiction of the court, judges’ nominations and notification for the constitution of the Special Court.
The learned counsel argued that the petitioner could not avail himself of the remedies from different courts for the same cause. He said the petitioner filed similar applications in the Islamabad High Court and also challenged the 31st July 2009 judgment in the Supreme Court.
Anwar Mansoor completed his argument on the applicability of CrPc to the Special Court Act. During the next hearing, he will argue against the prosecution side’s objections. On his request, the court adjourned the hearing till Tuesday (today).
Later, talking to the media outside the court building, Akram Sheikh said that they were not involving Army in the treason case but Pervez Musharraf as a person “who had abrogated the constitution”.