Pervez Musharraf misses third court appearance after alleged heart attack

Former Pakistan army general on trial for treason has already missed two previous hearings due to bomb scares

Pakistan's former military ruler Pervez Musharraf missed another court appearance on Thursday after suffering what his aides described as a minor heart attack as he was travelling to the building where he is being tried for treason.

The man who ruled Pakistan for nearly a decade until he was deposed in 2007 had already missed appearing in the dock twice in the past two weeks after small bombs were found on the route of his convoy.

A bomb scare on Wednesday prompted a large security operation to be launched on Thursday to protect the former president as he travelled from his mansion on the outskirts of Islamabad.

His non-appearance has been a source of frustration for judge Faisal Arab, who repeated a threat to have Musharraf arrested to force him to appear.

News that Musharraf had been diverted to hospital was broken by a senior police official to a court sitting in Pakistan's national library building.

The timing of Musharraf's aliment was greeted with incredulity by observers whose suspicions were further aroused by the fact the former army chief had been taken directly to a military hospital for treatment.

"All medical excuses must be verified by an independent board of doctors," said Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, the 25-year-old joint chairman of Pakistan's biggest opposition party.

"I have an ouchy is no excuse to skip your treason case," he wrote in a tweet.

Throughout a morning marked by heated exchanges between defence and prosecution lawyers, Musharraf's team made arguments designed to postpone his court appearance.

It is the first time in the short history of a country that has been repeatedly punctuated by periods of military rule that a former dictator has been held to account for his actions.

Aasia Ishaque, a spokeswoman for Musharraf's political party, the All Pakistan Muslim League, said Musharraf had been seen by doctors the previous evening because of stress surrounding the case.

Musharraf was travelling in an armoured car when he began sweating and felt "heaviness in his chest".

"They told him to take rest but he had got up early in the day because he was keen to disprove claims in the press that he wanted to avoid the court," Ishaque said.

She said tests carried out at the Armed Forces Institute of Cardiology showed he had suffered from a mild heart attack.

Ishaque denied rumours that circulated within hours of Musharraf's trip to hospital that he would be moved overseas for treatment.

Observers of Pakistan's byzantine political scene have long suspected an excuse would be found to take Musharraf back to a life of exile in Dubai and London, which he had enjoyed until March last year when he returned to the country in a bid to stand for election.

Large numbers of supporters failed to turn out to welcome him home, he was barred from running in the elections and became embroiled in legal cases, including one alleging he was complicit in the killing of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto in 2007.

But it was the decision in June of prime minister Nawaz Sharif, the politician who Musharraf overthrew in a coup d'etat in 1999, to order a trial for the capital crime of treason that has created the greatest trouble for the former army chief.

Legal experts have said he has little chance of successfully defending himself against charges that he illegally suspended the constitution in 2007 when he introduced emergency rule and deposed senior judges.

Members of Pakistan's commentariat say the still-powerful military establishment will never allow Musharraf to go on trial.

But neither the government nor the judges have indicated that, and the efforts by his defence team to keep him from the courtroom have begun to sound desperate.

On Thursday morning the lead lawyer, Anwar Mansoor Khan, began proceedings with a statement saying he could not continue his work on the case after his sleep had been disturbed all night by mysterious banging on his door and ringing of his bell.

"I'm not interested in security," he retorted when the judge asked whether he had anyone to protect him. "Let someone come and kill me, I am not a weakling."

He said the government was behind efforts to intimidate members of the defence team.

He later left the court amid angry jostling between the two legal teams after a defence lawyer accused Akram Sheikh, the special prosecutor in the case, of issuing threats in private against his adversaries.

Citing the "high temperature" of the mood in the courtroom the lead defence lawyer, Sharifuddin Pirzada, asked the judge to adjourn proceedings.

But judge Arab, who heard all of the defence's objections to the proceedings, demanded Musharraf be brought to the court.

After hearing news of his heart problem, the court announced Musharraf would not be arrested and would be excused from appearing at the next hearing on Monday.


Jon Boone in Islamabad

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Pervez Musharraf makes first court appearance in treason case
Special court in Islamabad will rule on Friday whether it has jurisdiction to hear case against Pakistan's former president

Jon Boone in Islamabad

18, Feb, 2014 @2:51 PM

Article image
Shoe hurled at Pervez Musharraf in Pakistani court
Former Pakistani president manages to dodge flying footwear lobbed by lawyer as Karachi court grants bail extension

Jon Boone in Islamabad

29, Mar, 2013 @2:41 PM

Article image
Pervez Musharraf misses court date for treason trial
Ex-Pakistan president and head of army misses hearing after his lawyers claim explosives were found near his home

Jon Boone in Islamabad

01, Jan, 2014 @4:46 PM

Pervez Musharraf charged with Benazir Bhutto murder

Lawyers believe prosecution will struggle to prove link between Pakistan's former military leader and 2007 assassination

Jon Boone in Islamabad

20, Aug, 2013 @3:37 PM

Article image
Pervez Musharraf banned from standing in Pakistani elections
Officials disqualify former military dictator in blow to his hopes of political comeback

Jon Boone in Dera Ismail Khan

16, Apr, 2013 @4:46 PM

Article image
Pervez Musharraf announces plans to stand in Pakistani elections
Former Pakistani president, who has been living in London since resigning his post in 2008, hopes to head new political party

Julian Borger, diplomatic editor

21, May, 2010 @3:58 PM

Article image
Pervez Musharraf taken into custody on charges of terrorism
Former military dictator returned to 'save' Pakistan but must now face possibility of being tried for treason

Jon Boone

19, Apr, 2013 @3:32 PM

Article image
Pervez Musharraf admits permitting 'a few' US drone strikes in Pakistan
Former president says strikes were discussed at military and intelligence level and cleared 'maybe two or three times'

Jon Boone in Islamabad and Peter Beaumont

12, Apr, 2013 @1:39 PM

Article image
Pervez Musharraf bids to regain power in Pakistan – from London's clubland
The former military leader, in exile in London for the past year, believes he is the man to provide Pakistan with firm leadership

Julian Borger, diplomatic editor

01, Oct, 2010 @10:00 PM

Article image
Pervez Musharraf should be tried for treason, says Pakistan's prime minister
Nawaz Sharif's announcement ends months of speculation over whether the government will take on the former military dictator

Jon Boone in Islamabad

24, Jun, 2013 @12:44 PM