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View Point: Musharraf should face the court with courage

Now that the reality of facing treason trial has dawned on him, General Pervez Musharraf is getting more and more desperate, and using all methods foul to fight his way out of trouble. First his foreign lawyers termed the trial as a “stage-managed show” questioning the impartiality of judges of the special tribunal that is to try him, seeking UN intervention. Most interestingly, they later asked London and Washington to “repay their debt”

It would be helpful if these gentlemen provided us with details of the ‘debt’ that those two countries owe him since the cost is being borne by the hapless people of this country. Was it military bases that the US has been using for whatever purposes, and from where drones took off to fire missiles on our tribesmen? Or is it the fighting and dying our soldiers have been doing in aid of their war in neighbouring Afghanistan? Or for all of these and other special favours of which we know nothing?

In an interview he gave the BBC on Sunday, Musharraf, terming the treason case as politically motivated, claimed that the Army was very concerned about what was happening to him. Yet he accused his predecessor General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani of not supporting him in this case. Kayani in fact tried as much as he could. First, when he announced his return from his comfortable exile in London and Dubai to participate in elections, oblivious to the new political realities and multiple legal challenges awaiting him, Kayani and colleagues had advised him to stay away and avoid creating problems for them and himself. He wouldn’t listen, insisting publicly to face legal cases pending against him in courts. That he repents his decision is plain from these remarks, “You can say it was my misjudgement; I did not expect Article 6 would be thrown at me.”

Kayani did more than that after Musharraf’s return as well when a slew of legal cases, including the assassination of Benazir Bhutto and the alleged murder of Baloch leader Nawab Akbar Bugti, starting coming up in courts. At one point various reports said that the CoAS had made a second attempt to save his predecessor, reaching an understanding with the government on letting Musharraf get out of the country on the pretext of seeing his ailing mother. At least one instance proved the veracity of those reports when a lawyer who had moved a petition in the Islamabad High Court about the judges’ detention case withdrew his petition, clearing the exit passage for Musharraf. Somehow, somewhere the plan hit a hitch. And the government, after some initial hesitation, felt compelled to play its constitutional role in initiating treason proceedings against him. Once the die was cast, there was no going back.

Musharraf still sees the Army as his last hope, making comments like “the whole Army is very upset… [and] is totally with me on this issue.” An idea of what the Army may be thinking can be had from the reaction of his brother officers in the Pakistan Ex-Servicemen Association and Pakistan Ex-Servicemen Society. They issued a joint statement the other day saying Musharraf seemed to be trying to implicate the Army as an abettor of the offence he is accused of under Article 6 of the Constitution. And that they considered declaration of emergency and sacking of judges by General Musharraf as his personal acts.

His mind focused on getting help from his former comrades-in-arms Musharraf explained in another TV interview how decisions are made in the Army. Opinion, he said, is sought (from senior officers) but it is the Army chief who makes the final decision. In other words, consultation may be part of the decision making process but it matters little. The chief can disregard any opinion offered and go ahead issuing orders according to his own lights. No wonder, Musharraf thinks that London and Washington owe him a personal debt. More to the point, he made it clear that he looked toward to CoAS General Raheel Sharif for help in his trial, saying “I leave it to him what he will do.” That is an open incitement to the Army to intervene in civilian affairs.

Desperate as he is the general has been making contradictory statements. Until recently, he had insisted that he took the November 3 action on the advice of the then prime minister Shaukat Aziz. In his latest attempt to drag in the Army, a day before he was to appear before the special tribunal for indictment he said, “I took the November 3 step as an Army chief. My case can be heard by a military court only.” Of course, he did not say which clause of the Constitution gives the CoAS the right to assume the office of president and proclaim emergency, suspending the Constitution itself. The general clearly has gone bonkers.

A day before the indictment date his lawyers filed an intra-court appeal against dismissal of three petitions challenging the establishment of the special court and its members as well as the appointment of the prosecution team head. The appeal was earlier rejected by the Islamabad High Court saying, “the petitioner is being tried for the offence committed under Article 6 of the Constitution… since the Constitution has overriding effect over all the other laws, including the Pakistan Army Act, the prayer that the petitioner be tried under the Army Act is incorrect.” His lawyers also sought postponement of legal proceedings for five weeks. Which apparently is an attempt to buy time for those indebted to pay back their debt, and also for the Army to do something to get him out of trouble.

None of this is going to work in the existing political environment. Neither London and Washington nor the government can tell the court to close the case and let him go scot-free. Nor can CoAS Raheel Sharif do anything, short of a coup, to rescue him at this point in time, ie, if he so desires. Our former military dictator should face the court with courage, and stop waiting for some miraculous escape to happen.

saida_fazal@yahoo.com (The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views or policy of the newspaper)

Saida Fazal, "View Point: Musharraf should face the court with courage," Business recorder. 2014-01-02.
Keywords: Political science , Political issues , Political parties , Political system , Political leaders , General Musharraf , Musharraf's trial , Article 6 , Military-Pakistan