Islamabad: The supreme court on Tuesday turned down a plea to order the arrest of retired general Pervez Musharraf as it heard petitions seeking the trial of the former military ruler for treason.
Musharraf did not attend the proceedings in response to the notice issued to him on Monday by the two-judge bench and was represented by his counsel, Ahmad Raza Kasuri, also a key leader in the former president’s political party, All Pakistan Muslim League.
The judges rejected Kasuri’s request to grant until May 20 to his client to submit his response to the petitions and adjourned the case to April 15.
The five petitioners have requested the top court to direct the federal government to initiate a treason case against Musharraf.
They have also cited the detention of Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry and dozens of judges of superior courts by the military ruler, who stepped down following the February 2008 general elections.
Musharraf returned to Pakistan on March 24, landing in Karachi where he was granted protective bail by the Sindh high court in three cases he is facing, including the 2006 killing of Baloch nationalist leader Nawab Akbar Bugti and 2007 assassination of former prime minister, Benazir Bhutto.
He is now living in his guarded farmhouse in Islamabad’s suburb and has been allowed by the bench to continue his political activities.
Pakistan’s Attorney General Irafan Qadri attended Tuesday’s proceedings. There was no counsel to represent the Federation, to which notice had also been issued by the bench.
Before the court proceedings, Qadri told the media he would perform his duties according to the constitution.
Musharraf’s counsel told the bench comprising Justice Jawwad S Khawaja and Justice Khilji Arif Hussain that a “Pandora’s Box” would open up if the case was not dropped. The bench however observed that it did not mind and would act according to the law and the constitution.
Outside the court after the proceedings, Kasuri hit out at what he called “political actors and jokers” who he said were trying to keep Musharraf out of the electoral arena in the May 11 general elections.
Kasuri said Musharraf had acted on November 3, 2007 after consultations with then governors of all the four provinces, corps commanders and others and added that notice should have been issued by the court to them also.
On the eve of the hearing, Musharraf’s Facebook account quoted him as saying that: “I have directed my panel of eminent lawyers to forcefully represent me in the supreme court.”
“These cases do not frighten me and I will fight all the cases in the court of law,” the former ruler said.
Musharraf is struggling to make it to the polls after his candidacy papers for National Assembly in Karachi, Islamabad and Kasur were rejected but accepted in the remote northern town of Chitral during nationwide scrutiny of nomination papers by returning officers.
Acceptance of his candidature from Chitral is being challenged at tribunals set up by the Election Commission. The tribunals will receive appeals against rejection or acceptance of papers till April 10, the last day fixed for filing appeals and then start proceedings to make decisions.
Musharraf is expected to appeal over the rejection of his papers in three National Assembly constituencies.