Islamabad: A Pakistan Supreme Court hearing into allegations of misrule by former president Pervez Musharraf resumed on Wednesday without any lawyers present to defend the ex-army chief, who left for London two months ago.
Last week, a 14-member bench headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry ordered Musharraf to answer charges that he had violated the constitution by ousting the judiciary and imposing emergency rule in November 2007 in a desperate move to extend his rule.
Fighting a Taliban insurgency in the northwest, dire economic challenges and doubts about its own standards of governance, Pakistan's fragile civilian government can ill-afford the distraction of raking over the past, according to critics.
Others say leaders should be held accountable if democratic institutions are to grow and future generals should be made to think twice before launching coups against civilian governments.
The army, which stepped back from politics after Musharraf's ouster, would be loath to be dragged into the controversy, but generals, having backed Musharraf's actions in 2007, would not want to see their old chief humiliated, according to analysts.
Opening proceedings on Wednesday, Chaudhry received no response when asked who was present to represent Musharraf.
"We haven't received any notice so far and once we get it then we will decide whether to appear before the court or not," Saif Ali Khan, a member of Musharraf's legal team, told Reuters.
Musharraf, who came to power in a military coup in 1999, had previously voiced both his intention to defend himself and his expectation of a fair hearing from a court headed by the judge who became his nemesis.
An attempt to dismiss Chaudhry in March 2007 precipitated the political crisis that led to Musharraf's downfall.