Former military ruler Pervez Musharraf on Wednesday failed to respond to summons from the country's apex court to explain his decision to impose emergency and sack several top judges in 2007.
Musharraf, who is now in London as part of his extensive lecture tour, snubbed the summons to appear before a 14-member bench headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar M Chaudhary, who had himself been a victim of the military dictator. Neither the former head of state, who lost power last year and has now turned a bitter critic of his democratic successors, nor his legal representatives, appeared before the court.
"Is somebody appearing on behalf of General (retired) Musharraf," asked the chief justice to a deathly silence in the courtroom. Later, Khalid Ranjha, a member of the former military ruler's legal team, told reporters that Musharraf did not need to personally appear in the court as he was not an 'accused or a respondent or a party' to the matter being heard by the court.
"I don't know where the idea that he (Musharraf) is supposed to appear (in court) came from," the lawyer argued. He explained that only once a person is an accused or a party, he is to be represented (by his counsel).
The lawyer claimed that "the case being heard by the Supreme Court related to certain judges of the Sindh High Court and there is no question of Pervez Musharraf either appearing or representing himself".
Ranjha also claimed that the notice issued by the apex court made it clear that Musharraf "may or may not give his views".
Malik Qayyum, who was attorney general under Musharraf regime, was present in the court but did not rise. Musharraf, who seized power in a military coup in 1999, had sacked Chief Justice Chaudhary and dozens of other judges, fearing that the top judge would disqualify him from contesting as President while still in uniform.
The Supreme Court had on July 22 issued a notice to Musharraf to explain his actions of imposing emergency on November 3, 2007 and deposing over 60 members of the superior judiciary who did not endorse the measure.
The bench issued the notice while reviewing a decision made by Musharraf's hand-picked judges to validate the emergency and the sacking of judges. During today's hearing, Chaudhry said Musharraf had violated the constitution to avoid being declared ineligible to contest presidential polls held in 2007.
Musharraf had contested elections for a second presidential term while he was still the army chief. It is widely believed that he declared emergency to prevent the apex court from declaring him ineligible for the polls. Chaudhary also said there was no example in the world's history of 'martial law' being imposed against the judiciary.
Hearing a petition challenging the appointment of judges who had taken oath after the emergency was imposed by Musharraf, Chaudhry directed the counsel to complete their arguments today because the nation was awaiting the verdict in this case.