ISLAMABAD - The special court tightened the noose around former military ruler Pervez Musharraf by issuing a non-bailable arrest warrant on Friday after he once again failed to appear in the high treason proceedings.
The repeated non-compliance of court summons forced the three-member judges panel to the warrants that would become applicable on the morning of March 31 if former army general refuses to appear before the Special Court ‘on his own volition’.
The court issued an order reading: “Let non-bailable warrants for production of the accused (Musharraf) be issued for 31-3-2014 to be executed by the Inspector General Police, Islamabad, or any other officer designated by him.”
The order also stated: “In view of the law the presence of the accused is required for proceeding with the case, as it is trite that a criminal case cannot be kept dormant where an accused is available to stand trial.”
Secretary Ministry of Interior was ordered to ensure all necessary measures for the safe journey of Musharraf and remain present in the court on March 31, as during the Friday hearing Musharraf’s legal team again pleaded that security threats were the biggest hurdle in the appearance of the 70-year-old retired general.
Anwar Mansoor Khan also submitted an application seeking exemption of Musharraf for yesterday’s (Friday) hearing. The lead defence counsel contended that interior ministry’s March 10 letter warned that sympathisers of terrorists have penetrated in the law enforcement agencies. He said Musharraf could be attacked en route to Special Court from or outside the court in an assassination attempt like the one that took the life of former Punjab Governor Salman Taseer.
Anwar pleaded changing of guards did not mean improving the security, adding that complete verification was required of the security personnel and it could not be done in 72 hours. “Threat to Musharraf’s life is real which we have been raising from the day one”, he said. The retired general, he said, could not be brought to the court unless Islamabad IGP and director general give affidavits in accordance with the security book and manual.
Public Prosecutor Akram Sheikh opposing the defence application informed that on three different routes 2,500 policemen and the Rangers have been deployed today (Friday) for the safe journey of Musharraf from Armed Forces Institute of Cardiology (AFIC ) to the Special Court. He said according a report of Accountant General Pakistan Revenues (AGPR) over Rs200 million had been spent on security arrangements in the last eight different dates for the appearance of Musharraf.
Akram Sheikh proposed the court that since Musharraf was already represented by a counsel therefore the charges (of high treason) be read out to the counsel, who may plead guilty or not guilty on behalf the former general so that the trial may proceed. He claimed that Musharraf had managed to plant its people in the National Crisis Management Cell who leaked out the alert on March 10 while the minister and secretary of interior ministry were completely unaware about it. He alleged for the last three months Musharraf was deliberately avoiding appearing before the court to avoid indictment.
The court inquired from Anwar Mansoor whether Musharraf would appear today or not. Mansoor was also asked to respond to the prosecutor’s suggestion that Musharraf could be indicted in his absence. The court asked the counsel to give its opinion after the interval. At 11:30am when the hearing resumed Anwar said: “On account of the security concerns Musharraf cannot appear.” He was also reluctant about suggestion regarding reading out charges to ex-president’s representative.
Justice Faisal Arab told the defence counsel that on their request the court had passed order on Army Act, CrPc applicability in the proceeding, and the judges’ bias, adding: “We have gone with you on everything, but the accused has not appeared.” Akram Sheikh demanded that Musharraf’s non-bailable warrants be issued. The defence counsel said Sheikh is becoming personal in the case and showing aggression, while he (Anwar) was behaving normally. Justice Faisal said: “In the last three months they have seen the manner of defence team as well.” Ahmed Raza Kasuri stood up and asked Anwar Masoor: “Let me deal with him (Akram Sheikh).”
Earlier, the defence counsel pleaded that the Special Court order on Army Act was not in favour of his client. He contended that Section 6(1)(a) of the Criminal Law Amendment (Special Court) Act 1976 has been repealed through 1981 Ordinance. Section 6(1)(a) of the law says, “As soon as the accused appear or are brought before the Special Court, the formal charges referred to in section 5 (of CLAA 1976) shall be read and explained to them, and each one of them shall be asked whether he is guilty.”
Mansoor said according to the Article 264 of the Constitution once a law is repealed it could not be read. He said that the section 6(1)(a) is not on the statute book. However, Justice Faisal Arab told him that the amendment in the CLAA 1976 was repealed and not the section itself. The prosecutor contended this court could not review its own order. He said the proceedings are sui generis (of its own nature). The hearing on Pervez Musharraf’s other applications was adjourned until March 20.