A court order from a special court in Pakistan on Thursday stated that the court will frame formal high treason charges against former president Pervez Musharraf [JURIST news archive] on March 31. The order also reiterated that Musharraf would be arrested [Xinhua report] if he failed to appear at his trial, and a non-bailable arrest warrant has been issued by the court for the former president. Petitions against the warrant were dismissed. While reports have stated that Justice Faisal Arab has left the three-member special court following claims by Musharraf's defense team that he is not impartial, the court has made clear that the judge had left for one day only. Musharraf's lawyers have also raised objections regarding the appointment of special prosecutor Akram Shaikh [ARY News backgrounder], who insisted on the non-bailable warrant.
Musharraf has faced a variety of legal troubles since his return to Pakistan from self-imposed exile. Earlier this month a Pakistani court issued an arrest warrant [JURIST report] for the former president in the event that he fails to attend the next court hearing on March 31, also directing the government to ensure Musharraf's safety when he travels to court. Also this month, Musharraf filed an appeal [JURIST report] to the Supreme Court challenging the decision not to allow Musharraf's high treason charge to be tried in military court. He made his first appearance [JURIST report] in front of the court in February. He had sought to delay his appearance for medical reasons and requested his travel ban be lifted to go abroad to seek medical treatment, a request the court denied [JURIST report] on January 31, instead issuing a "bailable" arrest warrant. Earlier in January the court rejected [JURIST report] Musharraf's contention that he was too sick to attend proceedings scheduled for January 16 and ordered him to appear, though he ultimately did not do so. Also currently ongoing are proceedings related to Musharraf's involvement in the 2007 Red Mosque killings and the death of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto [BBC obituary; JURIST news archive]. Musharraf has also been charged with murder, conspiracy to commit murder and facilitation of murder in the 2007 death of Bhutto. Bhutto was killed at a rally [CNN report] addressing a large crowd of her supporters when a bomb exploded near her vehicle. Bhutto's death came just two weeks after a failed assassination attempt, and prosecutors have accused Musharraf of failing to provide adequate security protection for her. Musharraf was arrested [JURIST report] in October for his role in the Red Mosque massacre after nearly six months of house arrest for the charges relating to the death of Bhutto, for which he was formally charged [JURIST report] in August.