ISLAMABAD, Pakistan – Pakistan’s former military ruler Pervez Musharraf missed another court appearance Thursday, the third time he has failed to show up at his closely watched treason trial.
Jan Muhammad, a senior police official in Islamabad, told a three-judge special panel that Musharraf complained of heart trouble while en route to Thursday’s hearing and was rushed to a military hospital.
He also missed two previous hearings after explosives were found near his home in the Islamabad suburbs and along the route to the court.
The panel had threatened to issue an arrest warrant if Musharraf failed to appear Thursday but granted him an exemption on medical grounds. The case is scheduled to resume Monday.
Musharraf, who took power in a 1999 coup, faces treason charges for suspending Pakistan’s constitution and imposing a state of emergency in November 2007. He returned to Pakistan in March hoping to run in elections but instead has faced a host of legal challenges, the most serious being the treason trial that began last month.
Musharraf denies the charges, saying the trial is politically motivated. If convicted, the 70-year-old former strongman could face the death penalty or life imprisonment.
Earlier Thursday, Musharraf’s seven-member legal team boycotted the proceedings for half an hour, accusing the court of being “hostile” to their client. They also told the panel that they were being threatened.
But Musharraf’s repeated failure to appear has raised skepticism among some Pakistanis, who accused him of pretending to be ill Thursday.
“This is another excuse to avoid court,” said Sen. Mushahidullah Khan, of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-N. “You look at his track record. First he avoided court citing security threats, but once government provided foolproof security to him, he came up with another plan.”
Syeda Firdous, a senior member of Musharraf’s All Pakistan Muslim League, said he was no coward.
“He fell sick and it could happen to anybody,” she said. “He is heartbroken because of the attitude of people who benefited from him during his tenure but now have turned their back on him.”
Firdous denied claims that Musharraf intends to flee the country, saying he will remain and face the court.
Sahi is a special correspondent.