Pakistan’s former President Pervez Musharraf was on Thursday rushed to hospital with a heart problem he reportedly experienced while being driven to court to to hear allegations of high treason read against him.
In the latest twist to the saga of Mr Musharraf’s travails before the country’s courts, it was reported that police had taken him to the Armed Forces Institute of Cardiology in Rawalpindi after falling ill on his way from his house in the Islamabad suburbs. At the time, he was being driven in a convoy to the National Library where the high treason proceedings are being held.
Several reports said Mr Musharraf's condition was stable but there was no official word from the hospital.
The hospitalisation of the 70-year-old former dictator is the latest development in a frenetic nine-month period since he returned to Pakistan from exile last March to try and contest in a general election. Having apparently persuaded himself he had large numbers of supporters in the country, he discovered paltry crowds and a judiciary keen to get even with him.
His absence from proceedings meant it was also the third time he had failed to appear in the court to hear the case against him. He has faced a number of legal cases against him relating to his time as military leader of Pakistan but the treason case, which carries the death penalty, is the most serious of them.
According to the Associated Press, one of Mr Musharraf’s lawyers, Khalid Ranjha, said he had developed a “heart problem” and had gone to the hospital instead of the court.
“Pervez Musharraf is a man of strong nerves, but he felt pain in the chest and doctors are examining him” added the lawyer.
Thursday’s hearing was the third of three in the high treason case that Musharraf has missed so far in the course of two weeks. He missed the previous two, including one on Wednesday, following bomb scares. The judge had ordered that Musharraf appear in court on Thursday, setting up a potential showdown with the once powerful military leader. The hearing has now been adjourned until Monday with Mr Musharraf’s legal team saying the former military ruler would seek medical advice before deciding whether or not to attend.
The hospitalisation sparked immediate speculation that Mr Musharraf was using a health scare to avoid the embarrassment of appearing in court. While the country’s powerful military has not tried to intervene in the proceedings against Mr Musharraf, it would not welcome the embarrassment of a former army chief to be convicted of treason.
When asked whether the trip to hospital was part of a ruse, another lawyer for Mr Musharraf said the former commando was afraid of nothing. “He is not the type of person who is afraid of, or fears something,” said Ahmed Qasuri.
Video: Musharraf diverted to hospital