RAWALPINDI/ ISLAMABAD: After months of back and forth, a special court has formally charged former president Pervez Musharraf for imposing extra-constitutional emergency in the country in 2007.
The former coup-maker appeared before the court on Monday morning against expectations – and was in a defiant mood, rejecting all charges against him in front of the three-member special bench.
The charges read out to Musharraf were the same ones put forward by the government last year – for subverting and circumventing the Constitution of Pakistan by imposing emergency on November 3, 2007 – when they had moved to form the special bench.
The treason case is being closely watched for its impact on the relationship between the military, judiciary and the government.
Late last night, news had broken that Musharraf, the former army chief, had been admitted to the Intensive Care Unit of the Armed Forces Institute of Cardiology (AFIC).
According to media reports, Musharraf was shifted to the AFIC’s Intensive Care Unit yesterday after his blood pressure spiked. A member of Musharraf’s team, Advocate Rana Ejaz, who was removed from the special court for his ‘contemptuous conduct’, was quoted as saying that Musharraf was shifted to the ICU.
On top of that, his legal team announced that they would boycott Monday’s proceedings – leading to speculation that Musharraf would once again be a no-show, like he had been for all but one of 35 hearings of the case.
The speculation of a no-show had created plenty of buzz given that the special court, formed to try Musharraf for treason, had summoned the former army chief today (Monday) and warned that another no-show would lead to non-bailable warrants.
The police had been ordered to arrest Musharraf and produce him before the court if he didn’t show up. In this regard, the police had also finalized plans for his arrest on Saturday.
Musharraf is accused of treason under Article 6 for suspending, subverting and abrogating the Constitution, imposing an emergency in the country in November 2007 and detaining judges of the superior courts.
The former president appeared before the Special Court today and rejected all the charges levelled against him. "Whatever I did, I did for the country and its people. I am sad that I am being called a traitor," stated Musharraf, claiming that he made Pakistan a respectable country during his tenure.
"I honour this court and prosecution, I strongly believe in law I don't have ego problems, and I have appeared in court 16 times in this year in Karachi, Islamabad and Rawalpindi," the former president said.
Musharraf further stated, "I am being called a traitor, I have been chief of army staff for nine years and I have served this army for 45 years. I have fought two wars and it is 'treason'?"
"I am not a traitor. For me traitors are those who loot public money and empty the treasury," he added.
Did not act alone
After the hearing, chief prosecutor Akram Sheikh said Musharraf's main defence rested on the claim that he acted on the advice of then-prime minister Shaukat Aziz and the cabinet when suspending the constitution.
"He has taken the defence that he did not take these steps independently," Sheikh said.
"On this I have submitted before the court that it is now for him to prove that he did this on the advice of the prime minister and the cabinet," he added.
Security measures at the Special Court were beefed up in anticipation of Musharraf’s appearance in court today, in compliance with an order issued on March 14, demanding his presence – enforced or voluntary – in the dock.
Islamabad police had covered their bases; a four-member committee was formed to escort the former president from the AFIC – where he has been admitted since January 2 – to court. Security passes were issued to a select few only and a police team was formed to arrest the retired general and bring him to court in the event that he refuses to appear voluntarily.