Things were looking all planned for former military strongman Gen (r) Pervez Musharraf but here comes the spoiler.
Musharraf’s medical report presented to the special court on Tuesday says that the former general may not be in the pink of his health but there’s no reason to press the red button either. What it looks like is just a mild muscular pain in his left shoulder.
The former president is admitted in the Armed Forces Institute of Cardiology (AFIC) in Rawalpindi after he complained of heart problem on his way to court last week to court to face charges of high treason for imposing emergency in 2007.
The special court exempted him from appearing personally on Monday but asked authorities to submit his medical records on Tuesday.
The report says his blood pressure came a textbook-perfect 120/80 mmHg and his cardiovascular and respiratory systems revealed no abnormality. The report adds that the uneasiness in his chest, sweating and discomfort resulted because of a frozen shoulder which the former head of Pakistan had suffered many times in the past as well. The only anomaly found in his medical report is a condition called ‘sinus bradycardia’ which is a heart rhythm of less than 60 beats per minute. But even this is a common condition found in both healthy individuals and those who are considered well-conditioned athletes.
The report states that the former general is suffering from calcium deposits in his coronary artery, mental stress, prostrate enlargement, and spinal and bone pain. It said that Musharraf’s father had also died from triple-vessel coronary artery disease.
Further tests are needed to decide whether Musharraf needs a heart bypass operation, said the report signed by AFIC Executive Director Major General SM Imran Majeed.
The report dashes all hopes of Musharraf’s safe passage to foreign shores to escape rising number of cases against him in Pakistan.
Caught up thus, Musharraf’s sole help was the military, which is thought to be viewing his predicament with a degree of concern, aware that his case could set a precedent in a country with a history of army rule.
Musharraf’s lawyer Ahmed Raza Kasuri criticised prosecution and said this treason case was not a trial of the former president but of the institution of the armed forces. “The prosecutor termed AFIC as hideout, and called Musharraf as fugitive. This is an insult to Pakistan Army,” Kasuri said.
His detractors say the military is supporting him though there has not been any public support by the armed forces.
Tuesday’s medical report from AFIC ends that myth.
The special court granted Musharraf exemption from appearance for two days (Tuesday and Wednesday) and adjourned the hearing until today (Wednesday). The court said it would announce a ruling in relation to the medical report on Thursday (tomorrow).
Judge Faisal Arab, who heads the three-member bench, said: “We will give an opportunity to both sides to examine (the report) and then we will decide accordingly.”
Earlier on Tuesday, the court was presented with Musharraf’s medical report which was handed to the judges by Registrar Abdul Ghani.
Musharraf’s sudden health scare was met with scepticism by some observers, and media speculation that his departure as part of a face-saving deal to avert a civil-military clash could be imminent.
Musharraf’s lawyer Kasuri told reporters outside the court that owing to the complexity of the medical issues, the matter could only be debated once both sides had been given time to assess the report.
During Tuesday’s proceedings, Musharraf’s counsel Anwar Mansoor said the special court had a limited mandate, adding that he did not view Akram Shaikh as the chief prosecutor in this case. Mansoor also apologised to the court on account of the arguments that took place during Monday’s proceedings.
While giving arguments regarding the application of articles 6, 4 and 204 of Criminal Procedure Code, Mansoor said no accused can be bailed out in high treason case. “There is clear difference between the powers of special court and general courts. Treason case is also criminal case and special court has no powers to hear criminal case,” he said.
He further argued that the special court has been constituted under special act. “I am not denying the applicability of Article 265 in this case but the federal government has nominated one person. Law itself is sovereign and takes its course on its own. We will have to see now who is hit by this case and what does the law say in this reference,” he said.
Mansoor said that Article 265-A does not permit arrest of the accused. “Parliament can recommend punishment but cannot impose it nor it is binding on any court to award the same sentence compulsorily on the accused which has been proposed by parliament. On the other hand the court has to proceed in consonance with law,” he added.
Justice Faisal Arab enquired: “Can arrest warrants be issued if the accused does not appear in court despite being summoned?”
Mansoor said the accused cannot be arrested under articles 204 and 265-A.
GHAZI RASHEED MURDER CASE:
Aside from the treason charges, Musharraf also faces trial over the assassination of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, the death of Baloch nationalist leader Akbar Bugti, a deadly raid on the radical Lal Masjid and the detention of judges.
Also on Tuesday, the Anti-Terrorism Court (ATC) in Islamabad demanding Musharraf’s medical certificate exempted him from appearing in the 2007 case relating to the killing of Lal Masjid cleric Ghazi Abdul Rasheed.
During the hearing, Musharraf’s lawyer filed a plea on his client’s behalf to be granted exemption from appearing before the court on Tuesday.
The lawyer of the 70-year-old former military strongman said his client was unwell and therefore could not appear in court.
Subsequently, the ATC granted the request for Tuesday’s exemption and asked for Musharraf’s medical certificate.
The court later adjourned the hearing of the case to Jan 18.
Meanwhile, a petition was filed in the special court, seeking to prohibit use of the word ‘traitor’ for the former army chief.
The petition was filed by Pakistan Social Justice Party chief Akhtar Shah, stating that use of the word ‘traitor’ is tantamount to demoralising the Pakistan Army. The petitioner appealed the court not to use the word for former military chief.