Islamabad: A special court trying Pervez Musharraf for treason directed the beleaguered former military ruler to appear on February 18 or face a non-bailable arrest warrant after he skipped today’s hearing.

The judges had earlier directed him to appear in person today and issued a bailable arrest warrant for 70-year-old Musharraf. The former army chief has not attended any of the hearings of the special court.

The court accepted Musharraf’s petition seeking exemption from appearing today. Musharraf’s counsel Anwar Mansoor assured the court his client would appear on February 18.

“Pervez Musharraf will appear before the court after being discharged from hospital,” he said.

Justice Faisal Arab, the head of the special court, warned that a non-bailable warrant would be issued if Musharraf failed to appear at the next hearing.

The special court was formed by the government last year to try Musharraf on charges of high treason for imposing emergency in November 2007. He was admitted to a military hospital in Rawalpindi after he developed heart problems on January 2.

On January 31, the court issued a bailable arrest warrant and observed that Musharraf’s absence from hearings was deliberate. Maj Gen (retired) Rashid Qureshi, a close aide of the former dictator, deposited surety bonds of Rs 2.5 million as directed by the court.

Sources said the court would issue a final order this evening that might also decide on the surety bonds submitted on Musharraf’s behalf.

Speaking to reporters outside the court, Mohammad Ali Saif, a key member of Musharraf’s legal team, said: “Musharraf will appear before the court on February 18 once the doctors allow him. We have challenged the setting up of the special court and the appointment of the prosecutor. The court should decide on those pleas first.”

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