Mush aide says he will not appear in court despite warrant

Pervez Musharraf will not appear in court despite the arrest warrant issued by an anti-terrorism court in connection with the Benazir Bhutto assassination case.

Islamabad: Pervez Musharraf will not
appear in court despite the arrest warrant issued today by an
anti-terrorism court in connection with the Benazir Bhutto
assassination case, a close aide of the former military ruler
said today terming the move as an attempt to intimidate him.

"There is no possibility of him (Musharraf) appearing
in court," Muhammad Ali Saif, the legal advisor for the former
President, said hours after the warrant was issued by the
court in Rawalpindi.

"They are trying to intimidate him. Let them find and
arrest him," Saif said.

The court conducting the trial of suspects charged
with abetting or facilitating the 2007 assassination of the
former premier issued the warrant after prosecutors told the
judge that Musharraf had failed to cooperate with

Musharraf was also directed to appear in the court at
the next hearing on February 19.

Legal experts said the court had the option of
proceeding against Musharraf if he failed to appear before the
judge at the next hearing.

They said that Musharraf had not been named as one of
the "main accused" in the chargesheet and was wanted for

"The court can conduct proceedings against Musharraf
in absentia and it can also issue orders against him if there
is any evidence connecting him to the crime.

"If he chooses not to appear in court, he will do so
at his own risk," said Mirza Aziz Akbar Baig, a former
vice-chairman of the Pakistan Bar Council.

If any order is passed against Musharraf by the court,
the government can resort to steps like seeking his
extradition, said Baig.

Saif, a lawyer who is also the secretary general of
Musharraf`s All Pakistan Muslim League party, contended that
the court`s decision to issue a warrant was "politically
motivated" as the former President had "no hand or role" in
Bhutto`s assassination in Rawalpindi in December 2007.

"The Federal Investigation Agency has been conducting
a probe for three years and it suddenly decides that Musharraf
was involved.

"Even if it has decided to name him as an accused, it
should have completed certain formalities like recording his
statement," he said.

"The action was taken unilaterally and he was named an
accused on simple accusations and hearsay," Saif said.

Saif contended that the anti-terrorism court had not
even considered whether the `challan` or charge-sheet
submitted by the FIA met the requirements of law or was
legally tenable. "An unbiased and non-prejudiced court would have seen
the weaknesses present in the challan," Saif said.

Officials have said that a questionnaire regarding
Bhutto`s assassination was sent to Musharraf, currently living
in self-exile in Britain.

But, Saif said no such questionnaire was received by
Musharraf and that no effort was made by investigators to
contact him.

"He (Musharraf) is not hiding, everyone knows where he
is. If the authorities contact us, we will cooperate in the
probe," Saif said.

Investigators have accused Musharraf of failing to
provide adequate security to Bhutto after she returned to
Pakistan from self-exile in October 2007.

They have also said that two top police officers
arrested for negligence in providing security to Bhutto were
acting on Musharraf`s orders. The former military ruler`s
aides have denied the charges.


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