ISLAMABAD, April 18: Criticising the caretaker government for not arresting former president retired Gen Pervez Musharraf after cancellation of his bail by the Islamabad High Court, senators unanimously demanded on Thursday exemplary punishment for the former dictator for “committing national crimes”.

In their hard-hitting speeches on points of order after completion of the day’s business, senators belonging to the mainstream political parties sought an explanation from the caretaker regime for providing the highest level of state security and “protocol” to the former military dictator.

Interestingly, the senators from the PML-Q and the MQM, the two former allies of Gen Musharraf, preferred to remain quiet on the issue.

After a number of fiery speeches by the senators holding the caretakers responsible for not arresting the former army chief, Chairman Nayyar Bokhari summoned caretaker Interior Minister Malik Mohammad Habib to the house on Friday morning to explain the government’s position.

In an apparent reference to the reply submitted by the caretaker government in the Supreme Court stating that it was not sure about its mandate to initiate trial of the former dictator under Article 6, Zahid Khan of the Awami National Party (ANP) suggested that the Senate should pass a resolution mandating the caretaker regime to try the former army chief who had twice subverted the constitution.

While politicians, he said, were sacrificing their lives a military dictator was enjoying protocol of Rangers and commandos in the name of security. He questioned the heavy expenditure on Musharraf’s security from the national exchequer.

Terming the escape of the former dictator from the courtroom a “shameful act”, the ANP senator demanded that Islamabad’s inspector general of police should be immediately suspended. He also called for including the name of the Rangers’ chief in the list of those who should be tried under Article 6 for aiding the general in his escape.

PPP’s Farhatullah Babar, who is the official spokesman for President Asif Ali Zardari, suggested that the Senate should pass a resolution “calling upon the caretaker government to remove with immediate effect all portraits of Gen Musharraf from government buildings” since he had been declared an usurper by the Supreme Court in its July 31, 2009, order.

Mr Babar said all political parties, members of the civil society and the Senate should join hands “to bring Musharraf to justice for subverting the constitution”. The Musharraf episode, he said, had provided an opportunity to undo the duality of laws in the country; one for the civilians and politicians and the other for the security establishment, whether serving or retired.

Mr Babar said that had the bail of the late Benazir Bhutto, former prime minister Nawaz Sharif or any other political leader been cancelled and had the court ordered their arrest, they would have been immediately whisked to Adiyala, but Musharraf had been allowed to flee, escorted by official security and commandos. “The incident of today is a manifestation of duality of standards in the country that must be done away with.”

He said the Senate had an added responsibility and recalled its resolution of Jan 23 last year wherein the house had unanimously called upon the government to arrest Musharraf on his return and prosecute him for committing treason. He said Gen Musharraf’s actions had been nullified by parliament and the Supreme Court had called for his trial for treason. “This makes him different from other military dictators,” since their actions had either been endorsed by parliament or by the court, he said.

He said it was incumbent upon political parties and the civil society to act fast and decisively to seek to get Gen Musharraf punished for high treason.

PPP stalwart Raza Rabbani said that “today Gen Musharraf was given the security which was not available to him even when he was the president”. He alleged that Gen Musharraf was involved in abetting the murder of Baloch leader Akbar Bugti and Benazir Bhutto.

Presenting a charge-sheet against the former army chief who had toppled the Nawaz Sharif government in 1999, PML-N’s Mushahidullah Khan said: “The list of Gen Musharraf’s crime is very long. He murdered Bugti. He detained judges. He handed over Dr Aafia to the US to receive dollars. The country is facing a serious economic crisis due to the policies of the commando general. He attacked Lal Masjid with phosphorous bombs.”

The PML-N senator said that today the ex-general had escaped from the court and tomorrow he could run away from the country. He asked all the political parties and the civil society to support the judiciary which had for the first time in the country’s history brought a military dictator to the dock.

“For one time, the country should witness what the UK had done with Cromwell,” the PML-N senator said referring to the 17th century British military ruler who was symbolically tried after his death and his body was exhumed and subjected to a posthumous execution under treason charges.

PPP’s Saeed Ghani regretted that former ISI chief Gen Hameed Gul and Brig Imtiaz had admitted playing political role in the past, but no action had been taken against them.

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