Former Pakistani president and army chief Pervez Musharraf failed to appear in court today for the second hearing in his high-profile treason case after authorities found an explosive device near his home.
His lawyers said it was too dangerous for Musharraf to appear in court. It was the third time since the high treason proceedings began that explosives have been found along the path the former president is supposed to take to court.
The treason case is the most serious of the legal troubles 70-year-old Musharraf has faced since he returned to Pakistan in March hoping to contest elections. Instead, he has been faced with a barrage of court cases connected to his rule and barred from taking part in elections.
Police officer Nayyar Saleem said officials scanning the route to court spotted the latest device along a road about a mile from Musharraf's farmhouse on Islamabad's outskirts.
One of his lawyers, Ahmed Qasuri, told the three-member panel of judges hearing the case that there were "many security issues" preventing Musharraf's appearance and that the court would be responsible if anything went wrong.
The prosecution presented two high-ranking police officers to testify that sufficient arrangements had been made to protect the former president. One of the officers said roughly 1,000 security officials had been deployed but police could not guarantee a bomb-proof vehicle for Musharraf to ride in.
The judge, Faysal Arab, has been sympathetic to the defence's security concerns and adjourned the hearing until tomorrow. But he warned he may issue an arrest warrant for Musharraf if he fails to appear in court then.
Musharraf's legal team is also arguing that the court itself was not properly formed, that the judges are biased against the former president and have described the legal proceedings as a political vendetta against him.
This is the third time police have found explosives along the path Musharraf is to take to court. Four small bombs were found along the same route on Monday and the first hearing on December 24 was delayed after explosives were found as well.
Musharraf took power in a 1999 coup and ruled Pakistan for nearly a decade.
The case relates to the state of emergency he imposed in 2007 and the detention of judges including the chief justice of the supreme court.