A special court trying Pervez Musharraf for treason today summoned the beleaguered former dictator to appear on February 18 and warned a non-bailable arrest warrant would be issued if he failed to do so.
The court issued the directive after Musharraf again skipped a hearing of the case. The judges had earlier directed him to appear in person today and issued a bailable arrest warrant for the 70-year-old former army chief. The court accepted Musharraf's petition seeking exemption from appearing today. Musharraf's counsel Anwar Mansoor assured the court his client would appear on February 18. "Pervez Musharraf will appear before the court after being discharged from hospital," he said.
Justice Faisal Arab, the head of the special court, warned that a non-bailable warrant would be issued if Musharraf failed to appear at the next hearing. Musharraf has not attended any of the hearings of the special court formed by the government last year to try him on charges of high treason for imposing emergency in November 2007. He was admitted to a military hospital in Rawalpindi after he developed heart problems on January 2.
On January 31, the court issued a bailable arrest warrant and observed that Musharraf's absence from the hearings was deliberate. Maj Gen (retired) Rashid Qureshi, a close aide of the former military ruler, deposited surety bonds of Rs 2.5 million as directed by the court.
Sources said the court would issue a final order this evening that might also decide on the surety bonds submitted on Musharraf's behalf.
Speaking to reporters outside the court, Mohammad Ali Saif, a key member of Musharraf's legal team, said: "Musharraf will appear before the court on February 18 once the doctors allow him. We have challenged the setting up of the special court and the appointment of the prosecutor. The court should decide on those pleas first."
Mansoor said in court that Musharraf's petitions challenging the appointment of the prosecutor and judges should be taken up first. He said it would be injustice to his client if the case proceeded without deciding these petitions.
Justice Arab said the case had already been deferred on three consecutive hearings because of the defence lawyers.
In a separate development, the Supreme Court's Registrar returned a petition filed by Musharraf against the bailable arrest warrant issued by the special court after raising objections. The Registrar said the apex court could not hear the petition and Musharraf should contact the relevant forum.