ISLAMABAD: As the former interior minister Senator Rehman Malik is ‘avoiding’ appearing before the anti terrorism court (ATC) to testify in the Benazir Bhutto murder case, the ATC Judge on Wednesday warned of issuing warrants to procure his attendance.

ATC had summoned Senator Malik as a prosecution witness on February 8 but he did not appear. The court then summoned him again on Feb 10 but he did not turn up when the proceedings in the case resumed on Wednesday.

A lawyer, however, appeared before the ATC and informed the court that Mr Malik was busy in a Senate standing committee meeting, hence could not appear.

Since the proceedings of the ATC was held in-camera, sources in the courtroom told Dawn that ATC Judge Rai Mohmmad Ayub Khan Marth warned that the court might issue warrants to procure his attendance.

Interestingly, Senator Malik seems to be unsure whether he is a prosecution witness in the case as his lawyer, according to the sources, contended before the court that Senator Malik could not recollect whether or not he had recorded any statement with the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) as prosecution witness.

The lawyer, however, assured the judge that Senator Malik would comply with his directions accordingly.

Subsequently, the ATC Judge put off the matter and again issued summons to Malik to appear before the court on next date of hearing on Monday (Feb 15).

Earlier on February 3 while talking to Dawn the former interior minister said that he had never formally testified in the Benazir murder case, rather provided some information voluntarily to FIA regarding the meeting of Benazir Bhutto with retired General Pervez Musharraf in Dubai.

“My name is not in the witness list and attending the court’s proceeding would be my discretion,” claimed Senator Malik.

He, however, said he would take the decision of appearing before the court after consulting with his lawyer.

As per prosecution, Malik claimed to have written multiple letters to Gen Musharraf requesting him to provide appropriate security to Ms Bhutto and was present in the meeting held in Dubai between Mr Musharraf with Benazir Bhutto prior to her departure for Pakistan.

The prosecution has sought testimony of Malik to prove its case against Mr Musharraf who is also one of the accused in Benazir murder case.

In 2010, the prosecution implicated Musharraf as an accused in Benazir murder case and named four witnesses against the military ruler--former secretary interior Syed Kamal Shah, former director general National Crisis Management Cell retired brigadier Javed Iqbal, former director general Intelligence Bureau retired brigadier Ejaz Shah and US lobbyist Mark Siegel.

Kamal Shah, Iqbal and Siegel have recorded their statements with the ATC.

However, the prosecution could not bring Ejaz Shah to the witness box.

On January 20, 2016, Mark Siegel concluded his statement in the case via a video link from the US.