Pervez Musharraf’s efforts to stymie his trial on treason charges suffered a setback today when a Pakistani special court dismissed the former military ruler’s petition to transfer his case to a military court and summoned him to appear on March 11.
Musharraf’s lawyers had objected to the formation of the three-judge special court, saying the 70-year-old former army chief could only be tried by a military court under the Army Act.
The special court asserted it has the mandate to try Musharraf and set the next hearing for March 4. It also summoned Musharraf to appear before it on March 11.
“This application is dismissed,” said Justice Faisal Arab, the head of the three-judge bench.
The bench ruled Musharraf was no longer in the army and can be tried by the special court. Musharraf had filed three applications that challenged the appointment of the government prosecutor as well as the establishment and jurisdiction of the special court.
He is the first military ruler to be charged with high treason charges for suspending the Constitution, imposing an emergency and detaining judges of superior courts in 2007.
If convicted, he could face life imprisonment or the death penalty. Ahmed Raza Kasuri, a key member of Musharraf’s legal team, claimed the court’s order was factually wrong because he was the army chief when he signed the proclamation declaring emergency.
“He had signed the order as the army chief and not as President. The judges should have recused themselves as they are biased against Musharraf. They were dismissed by Musharraf and held agitations against him,” Kasuri told reporters outside the special court.
He claimed that facts and laws were “twisted” in this case.
Rana Ijaz Ahmed, another lawyer representing Musharraf, accused the judges of acting like “rented killers” when the judgement was read out.
Though Musharraf appeared in court during the last hearing, it could not carry forward the proceedings as his lawyers had asked the court to first decide on their petitions challenging its mandate.
After skipping all previous hearings of the treason trial, Musharraf appeared for the first time in the special court on February 18.
Musharraf admitted to a military hospital in Rawalpindi on January 2 after he developed heart problems. He is at the Armed Forces Institute of Cardiology since then.