Updated: 01/02/2014 22:01 | By Agence France-Presse

Musharraf suffers 'heart problem' on way to treason hearing

Pakistan's former military ruler Pervez Musharraf was rushed to hospital Thursday after suffering a "heart problem" on his way to court, in the latest dramatic twist in his treason trial.

Musharraf suffers 'heart problem' on way to treason hearing

Pakistan's former military ruler Pervez Musharraf addresses foreign media representatives at his house in Islamabad, December 29, 2013

The 70-year-old had been summoned to the special tribunal in Islamabad after failing to show up for two previous sessions due to security threats against him.

Jan Mohammad, a senior police official, told the court that Musharraf had fallen ill with a "heart problem" while being transported to the hearing under heavy guard.

The case was adjourned till Monday, with Musharraf's legal team saying he would seek medical advice before deciding whether to attend.

A doctor at the Armed Forces Institute of Cardiology in Rawalpindi, the garrison city bordering Islamabad, said the former ruler was in a stable condition and under observation.

An aide to the ex-general, who is facing a series of criminal cases dating back to his 1999-2008 rule, had earlier told AFP he was in "bad shape".

His lawyers say the treason allegations, which relate to his imposition of emergency rule in November 2007, are politically motivated.

Efforts were under way to have Musharraf, currently under a government travel ban, flown out of the country, a source from his camp said.

Rumours have circulated for months that a backroom deal would be struck to whisk him out overseas before trial to avoid a destabilising clash between the government, which brought the charges, and the powerful armed forces.

But the former commando has previously insisted he wants to stay and fight the charges.

He is Pakistan's first ex-army head to be put on trial. While there has been no public comment on the case from the military, some observers say they are reluctant to have their former chief suffer the indignity of trial in a civilian court.

The government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has repeatedly said it would not let Musharraf leave Pakistan before facing the courts.

"If the doctors advise him to go abroad for treatment, then we will seek permission from the court," Musharraf lawyer Muhammad Ali Saif told reporters.

"The court can grant him permission to leave the country if his doctors advise so."

Sharif was the man Musharraf ousted from power in his 1999 coup, and his lawyers have previously said the case is an attempt to settle old scores through the courts.

Some commentators have also complained it is an unnecessary distraction while the country is struggling with a bloody homegrown Taliban insurgency, crippling gas and electricity shortages and a faltering economy.

Security was tight at the hospital in Rawalpindi, an AFP journalist said, with soldiers and paramilitary Rangers standing guard. 

A small contingent of  well-wishers shouted slogans in his support outside the hospital.

Lawyer walkout

Earlier on Thursday his lawyers walked out of the court hearing, complaining of being threatened and harassed.

On of them, Anwar Mansoor Khan, told the court he had been receiving threats and was unable to sleep the night before the hearing.

"I was under total threat... from 1:00 am to five in the morning. Someone was banging on my door and ringing my bell," Khan told the court.

When one of the judges asked who was threatening him, Khan answered: "This very government."

The court promised to investigate but Khan walked out of the courtroom, followed by other members of Musharraf's legal team.

Sharifuddin Pirzada, another of Musharraf's lawyers, also complained that he had been threatened.

Khan told the court on Wednesday he had been attacked in his car while travelling to the eastern city of Lahore following an earlier hearing.

The treason allegations are the latest in a series of criminal cases faced by Musharraf since he returned to Pakistan in a thwarted bid to run in last May's general election.

These include murder charges over the assassination in late 2007 of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto.

On Sunday the retired general denounced the treason case as a "vendetta" against him and claimed he had the backing of the military.

The potential for the case to disrupt Pakistan's delicate civilian-military balance means it will be keenly watched by the US and NATO as they wind down their mission in neighbouring Afghanistan.

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