FOUR military dictators have come and gone but never before has one been summoned to court to answer for his crimes against the Constitution. Pervez Musharraf may not have been in court yesterday but his determination to return to Pakistan and participate in the upcoming elections has already triggered events that could have far-reaching consequences for the country’s latest attempt to entrench democratic norms. Essential here, more than ever, is that justice be done and also be seen to be done. The chief justice recusing himself from the hearings was a welcome first step given how the ex-military strongman targeted Chief Justice Chaudhry personally. Another good sign was that the two-member bench that began hearings yesterday demonstrated no undue haste or eagerness to see Gen Musharraf behind bars or gratuitously humiliated. The ex-president and dictator may have shown enormous contempt for the Constitution and democratic process but the majesty of that very system requires that he be treated fairly and lawfully.

As the proceedings continue in the weeks ahead, it is essential that the focus not remain on simply the events of 2007, when the then-president targeted the judiciary in an attempt to ensure he could continue in power for a third term. The original sin of Gen Musharraf occurred in 1999 when he ousted the elected government of then-prime minister Nawaz Sharif who had attempted to sack his army chief — an ill-advised move that was nevertheless Mr Sharif’s political and legal right. In that episode, Gen Musharraf far from acted alone and history is yet to reveal who the protagonists were and what role each individual played. Similarly, in the continuation of Gen Musharraf’s patently unconstitutional role — first in the form of the three-year window given to him until 2002 by his handpicked Supreme Court and then in manipulating the parliamentary process until 2007 — there are many, many figures involved, and each of them has much to answer for.

If handled correctly, a trial of Gen Musharraf can help the country and its polity come to terms with the many anti-democratic chapters of its history. That the opportunity has arisen at a moment the country is preparing for an unprecedented, civilian-led transition is one of those quirks of history. Ultimately, for the democratic project to become irreversible, state and society will have to internalise democratic norms — and here is a moment to both reconcile with the past and set a precedent for the future.


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Comments (18) Closed




Naya Pakistan
Apr 10, 2013 04:01am
Keep the can of worms tightly closed and move on, despite the shrill hysterics of some. We are not Argentina. At best a rap on the knuckles should suffice.
sultan khan
Apr 10, 2013 04:48am
People are fed up with these "bhashans" of so-called democracy, peaceful transitions etc.etc. What the democracy during the last five years has given to the poor masses. More poverty, deterioration in GDP and economy, unbearable load shedding, full freedom for blood letting, worsening law and order situation, isolation and devaluation in the status of Pakistan in the comity of nations. Who have gained during the last five years? Politicians, judges, lawyers , electronic and print media houses etc. Despite all the machinations and shenanigans it is an irrefutable fact that common man was happier in the days of Ayub, Zia and Musharraf. Isn't it hypocrisy of the meanest degree that as to why the mantra of treason is being sung by the touts of jagirdars only against Musharraf and why not against those who in total violation of the constitution took oath under PCO from him , allowed him to remain president in uniform and for the first time in the history of Pakistan allowed him even to amend the constitution.
Azfar A Khan
Apr 10, 2013 05:49am
It won't be easy to blame Musharraf alone. So many people will also have to be considered for abbetting. Will the case reach its logical conclusion, is a big question mark. I think it will also be shelved as has the Asghar khan's case. If all people who assisted him are involved, it will have multiple dimentional effect on the country. Will we be prepared for it?
Feroz
Apr 10, 2013 05:58am
If Musharraf is tried for Treason, he should be tried for overthrowing the democratically elected Government in 1999 and not for the subsequent imposition of Emergency in 2007. Only from the crime of the former could arise the latter. However it is going to be difficult because the Judiciary has been an accomplice in every such act of Treason since Independence, including in 1999. Ideologically the Military and Judiciary are on the same page on every issue looking at the kids gloves with which transgression of those in uniform have been handled, with no Dictator ever being brought to book while elected PM's have been sent to jail and even fraudulently hanged by the Judiciary. Whether the Pot can call the kettle black, is the question.
Fuzail Z. Ahmad
Apr 10, 2013 06:33am
Excellent editorial, and as usual, unbiased and all-encompassing. "Hand picked Supreme Court" is particularly noticeable, as it brings forward the issue of PCO judges who seem like more than just abettors to the mil-coup. And the national assembly that validated the mil-coup through legislation.
M. Alvi
Apr 10, 2013 06:51am
The first question that comes to mind is "Is Pakistan ready for democracy?" Democracy has some precondions to meet. The most important is that the voter must have enough knowledge of issues and answers facing the nation. Only then he can decide who can solve the problems. Pakistani voter is ignorant and does not know who he is voting for or should vote for. Unless this precondition is satisfied, democracy will not be the right form of government. What Pakistan needs is a leader who is knowledgeable, sincere, and strong enough to overcome the opposing forces and implement his ideas. That is a recipe for dictatorship. Having this in mind, I suggest that Pakistan should give Musharraf a second chance. He is still better than everybody else. He has the right ideas and strength to lead Pakistan domestically and in the world. Good luck Pakistan!
SHAFIQ KHAN
Apr 10, 2013 08:59am
Very sound advice, however it seems unlikely to be taken notice of as many of those accumplaces are still in power. The best thing a democratic government can do is to announce catagorically that in case of an undemocratic government in the country any loans contracted by that government will not be honoured by the elected government whenever it comes about.The anouncement of this nature will put those external actors on notice. Would it be useful to inquire into the sources of funds that maintained retired General Musharaf during his period in the foreign lands!
Imran
Apr 10, 2013 12:57pm
Nothing will happen to Musharraf !!! Army will ensure that he get's a safe exit out of the country !!! It's not an open and shut case. The whole pandora box will be opened. It's a futile exercise.
Agha Ata (USA)
Apr 10, 2013 12:58pm
Musharraf's trial may reveal names of many undemocratic elements in the country, but as a matter of fact there is hardly anyone (or are very very few in the country) who is a real lover of this system, largely because no one has seen democracy in action yet. Older the democracy the more beautiful it becomes, having record of doing divine acts. Completing five years on papers hardly defines it. Is democracy having its birth in Pakistan. I am not sure yet!
Tanvir
Apr 10, 2013 01:16pm
Either save the constitution or Pakistan and its people. The politicians are not interested in saving Pakistan and/or serving Pakistani people. They are all interested in saving their personal, family, Jagir and financial interests under the cover of the constituition. All our military leaders intervened in the interest of the Pakistani people to save Pakistan. They were all loyals. It's the politicians who were committing treson by not serving Pakistan in accordance with the so called constitution. Pakistan never grew in any way under any civiliian political leader! Think what Ayub Khan did for Pakistan. He is the first General who restored Pakistan/s dignity among the community of nations. Enough said.
Muneer
Apr 10, 2013 01:45pm
In my opinion,'hand picked', theory has not worked in Pakistan.Ayub Khan was a hand picked' man of CMLA Iskandar Mirza,he overthrew him.Hand picked' ZA Bhutto overthrew Ayub Khan.His hand picked' Zia ul Haq hanged him.Nawaz Sharif hand picked' overthrew him.Musharraf hand picked' also did the same.Only 'Power' matters,nothing else.
Julie C
Apr 10, 2013 02:01pm
Then, Zia (the military) had Bhutto (the politician) hanged. Now, politicians want to see Musharraf (the military) hanged. Nothing but a score-settling exercise!
SHAFIQ KHAN
Apr 10, 2013 02:32pm
Sorry sir, You do not have the basic notion of what a democracy means. Your suggestion of the discredited chap is in power is the most rediculous thing I ever heard. When the usa constitution came in force the literacy rate was below than that of Pakistan today. Education is a condition chosen by the ignorant, who abfucicate the debate. There is no Pakistani who does not know, what is good for him, period.That is where democracy starts. Once the so-called educated officials are made to understand their position in a democratic governance, the decision should go to the elected civilians, the democracy will be in place.The government paid officials at whate ver seniority have not place in a democracy other than carrying out the electe d decision makers. Officials are there to advise the masters on all issues the elected members choose. Right from the village school to the higher civil service .
khalid s sheikh
Apr 10, 2013 04:04pm
My hats off to CJP for conducting Musharrafs trial.I have seen him uptill now he has been the best of all CJPs.His name will go down in history for not beeing Biased even when he has been a victim.This has also been disclosed by Musharraf himself for his biggest mistake of his rule.Otherwise Pakistans average Gdp growthin his term has been the third since the inception of Pakistan.The first was Gen.Zia ul Haq and no Two was Gen. Ayub khan.So all Generals.And Pakistans Public cries about and calls them Dictators..And to talk about Zardari five year term has been a disaaster.in the history of Pakistan.The average Gdp growth has been at its lowest ebb.Only Loot and corruption was rule of Law.I do hope and Pray that Musharraf gets a fair chance to contest elections.I am sure he will stand out among all the lame Horses running in the elections
Shahpur
Apr 10, 2013 05:23pm
Democracy is a Greek invention. Greeks called it the "Rule of the Mob"". Pakistan is tribal and part of the Persian civilization. It will develop its own system, which is just, human, and natural. I think such a system is in the making.
thoughtpurification
Apr 10, 2013 08:47pm
There is no country in the world with democratic history who had informed educated citizen as a pre condition. If out of 150 countries there is one please let us know and that include India , USA and UK. Right to vote and elections periodically are the only condition needed.
Mother
Apr 10, 2013 10:10pm
Musharraf should be tried and punished. Not only will it act as a warning to other hopefuls, it will inject optimism and sense of hope that there is still a country worth living in. All the 'cynics' above, worried about opening the Pandora's box should be ignored. There is no Pandora's box to be opened..everything is an open secret, it only needs to be stated as a fact.
Asif
Apr 11, 2013 12:20am
@Feroz: Very nicely written, all facts!!!