Pakistan’s former dictator Pervez Musharraf refuses personal appearance in court on treason charges
Pakistan’s former dictator Pervez Musharraf will not appear personally in the Supreme Court on Tuesday to answer a summons over alleged treason dating back to his time in office, officials said.
He was summoned Monday by the Supreme Court, the first time Pakistan’s top court has summoned a former military ruler over allegations of misconduct.
Elections next month will mark the first democratic transition of power in the country’s history.
Musharraf returned last month from four years of self-imposed exile to stand in the May 11 poll, saying he wants to “save” the nation, although his powerbase in Pakistan has shrivelled in the years since he stepped down in 2008.
But lawyers sought to have the ex-general face trial under Article Six of the High Treason Act 1973 for imposing emergency rule and arresting judges in 2007.
Lawyer Hamid Khan told the Supreme Court that Musharraf had subverted the constitution and should be “punished with death or be jailed for life”.
Judge Jawad Khawaja said it was the “obligation” of the state to take effective measures against Musharraf “and others who subverted the constitution”.
“The office shall ensure service of notice to the respondents for tomorrow,” Khawaja told the court, referring to both Musharraf and a representative of the state.
He also barred the ex-leader from leaving the country.
But Musharraf’s team announced late Monday that he would not appear in person.
“I have directed my panel of eminent lawyers to forcefully represent me in the Supreme Court of Pakistan tomorrow… These cases do not frighten me and I will fight all the cases in the court of law!” his Facebook account quoted him as saying.
His lawyer, Syed Afshan Adil, told AFP that there would be a “security issue”.
The Pakistani Taliban threatened to assassinate Musharraf on the eve of his March 24 return to Pakistan. Last month he also had a shoe thrown at him by an angry lawyer at a court in Karachi — a deeply insulting gesture in the Muslim world.
“It has been decided that his lawyers will represent him. However when the court considers it necessary he will appear in person,” Adil said.
His supporters say only the federal government can initiate a treason case. Pakistan is currently being overseen by an interim administration until a new government can be sworn in after the elections.
Musharraf was authorised Sunday to stand as a candidate in the remote northern area of Chitral, although a lawyer has vowed to appeal that decision, but he was rejected in three other seats.
Nuclear-armed Pakistan is afflicted by an economic malaise and near-daily attacks by the Taliban and other militants.
But Musharraf’s homecoming was muted and the 69-year-old faces a number of other legal cases dating back to his 1999-2008 rule.
He has been bailed over the 2007 killing of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto and a Baluch rebel leader in 2006, and for sacking and arresting judges during emergency rule in 2007.
Musharraf dismissed around 60 top judges including Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, who was held under house arrest.
The judges were belatedly reinstated by President Asif Ali Zardari, who was elected to replace the general in March 2009 following months of protests.
Some analysts doubt that the Supreme Court will force the case against Musharraf and believe he will be free to run for the Chitral seat.
“I don’t think the Supreme Court will order his prosecution, this will be seen as settling accounts with Musharraf,” political analyst Hasan Askari told AFP.
“If the Supreme Court takes any action then the argument will be that it is a personal vendetta.”
Musharraf’s APML party, founded in exile with the help of Pakistani expatriates, is not thought likely to win more than a couple of seats.