The first hearing in a high treason case against former Pakistani leaderPervez Musharraf has been delayed by a bomb scare, police and legal officials said.

The case is the most serious legal problem Musharraf has faced since returning to the country in March in the hope of taking part in elections. But a ban on running for office, his house arrest and a cascade of legal cases against him has marked a turn in fortunes for a man once considered the most powerful person in Pakistan and a close US ally.

Mohammed Ali, a police official, said authorities found an explosive device and two pistols on Tuesday about half a mile away from Musharraf’s residence in the Islamabad suburbs.

A lawyer for Musharraf, Anwar Mansoor Khan, told the court his client could not attend because of a “serious threat to his life”. The chief judge directed Musharraf to attend court again on 1 January.

The brief hearing held Tuesday at an auditorium at the National Library was expected to be largely procedural, but the significance of having a former army chief appearing in front of a treason court would be enormous in a country where the military’s power has rarely been challenged.

Musharraf took power during a 1999 coup and ruled Pakistan until 2008 when he was forced to step down. He later left the country and spent about four years in self-imposed exile.

He returned in March only to find himself swiftly arrested on charges stemming from his time in office.

The high treason case stems from his 2007 decision to dismiss and detain judges, including the country’s chief justice, after declaring a state of emergency and suspending the constitution.

The move backfired as lawyers supporting the judges took to the streets in widespread protests that eventually weakened Musharraf’s government so much that he was forced to call new elections and step down.

Musharraf has repeatedly said he is not guilty of the charges, and his legal team has portrayed the repeated legal cases as a vendetta against him by the judicial community.

source: Guardian UK