Embattled former dictator Pervez Musharraf Tuesday appeared for the first time in a Pakistani special court conducting his treason trial but was not charged as the judges said they would decide his petition challenging their mandate.
This is the first time in Pakistan’s 66-year history that a former military ruler is facing trial for treason. If convicted, 70-year-old Musharraf could face life imprisonment or the death penalty.
Musharraf appeared in the special court, formed last year to try him on charges of high treason for imposing emergency in 2007, after skipping all previous hearings.
The court has held 22 hearings so far and Musharraf was in the courtroom for hardly 15 minutes Tuesday. The three-judge court will announce on Friday it decision on petitions filed by Musharraf seeking his trial by a military court under the Army Act.
If it decides that it has the mandate to hear the treason case, the special court will summon Musharraf again.
Musharraf was driven to the court, set up in Islamabad’s heavily guarded “Red Zone”, from a hospital in Rawalpindi in a long motorcade. Authorities put in place tight security, with over 1,200 security personnel deployed along his route.
His 17-vehicle cavalcade included a bulletproof car, pilot vehicles and an ambulance. Over 400 personnel were deployed in and around the court alone.
Since January 2, Musharraf has been admitted to the Armed Forces Institute of Cardiology. He was taken to the hospital after developing heart problems while being driven to court.
“We have proved our respect for the courts today. We have been maintaining that Musharraf is neither shy nor afraid to appear before the court. We had said he will appear as and when required,” Ahmed Raza Kasuri, a key member of Musharraf’s legal team, told reporters outside the special court.
He said Musharraf came to the court “even though he was not well”.
“We have argued that further proceedings should take place only after the court decides whether it is competent or an army court (to hear the treason case). You have to decide on the petitions filed against this court,” Kasuri said.