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The longer shadow Musharraf’s trial

Published Jun 26, 2013 07:33am


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SOMEHOW, when it comes to the army’s political transgressions and holding its leadership accountable for its sins against the nation, the arguments against doing so are quickly and furiously proffered. Somehow, it is never the right time, there is always something more important to be attended to first or there is encouragement to let bygones be bygones. But beyond the self-serving claims, there is a very real need for a reckoning with the past. Now, the country may finally be inching towards the ultimate reckoning: putting a military dictator on trial for his crimes against the Constitution and the people of Pakistan. Unsurprisingly, there are more questions than answers at the moment. How much pressure will the Supreme Court led by Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry put on Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s government to see the judges’ tormentor — former army chief Pervez Musharraf — put on trial? How will the present army leadership respond to the trial of a former army chief with the selection of the next army chief on the horizon? Beyond his self-proclaimed desire to move on and strengthen democracy, does Mr Sharif still harbour a grudge that will be hard to suppress now that the opportunity to have Mr Musharraf punished has presented itself?

If there is one thing that is clear, however, it is the time frame that should be under consideration when revisiting the Musharraf era: the November 2007 emergency was not the original sin; in fact, it was only possible because of what is actually the original sin — October 1999. And in that original episode were involved a whole range of actors, both in its planning and execution and its judicial validation soon thereafter. For then-Gen Musharraf to have been able to circumvent the Constitution and install himself as Pakistan’s ruler, the cooperation of many other individuals was required — a fact that is key to both understanding the basis of military rule and shutting down the route to future extra-constitutional adventures. By going beyond just Mr Musharraf and also seeking to hold other key players to account, the process will necessarily transcend the sense of vendetta or revenge and shift the focus to democracy strengthening.

That necessarily raises the question of why there has been no clarity about whether the events of 1999 are in fact part of the proceedings that Prime Minister Sharif has now said his government will support. In some quarters, the argument has been made that the events of 1999 were given parliamentary cover by the parliament elected in 2002 and so that is a closed chapter, even if the last parliament retrospectively undid that approval. But then the 2007 emergency has perhaps the most authoritative judgement of the Supreme Court itself that laid bare all the relevant episodes of that fact, and a trial of Mr Musharraf is unlikely to yield anything ground-breaking in terms of facts or evidence. Then again, if it’s simply a case of bringing to justice the individual held responsible for November 2007, there is another Supreme Court judgement regarding the 1990 election which also requests the government to proceed against those the court has found involved in stealing an election — and that happens to include the present prime minister, Mr Sharif. It appears, then, that everyone is proceeding with caution, fearful of the skeletons in their own closets and worried what a trial of a dictator with nothing to lose may unleash.

Still, complexity and uncertain outcomes and reactions ought not to be reason enough to ultimately baulk at holding individuals accountable for their crimes against the Constitution and, by extension, against the people of Pakistan. In truth, the most difficult tasks are also the most important, but buried within that reason is also the explanation for why they must be attempted. In five years since Mr Musharraf’s exit, the transition to democracy has passed major and historic milestones. There is no reason to flinch from examining the past anymore.


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Comments (7) Closed

AR Khan Jun 26, 2013 10:43am

The case is not of treason. It is the matter of life and death for the present judiciary to humiliate Musharraf and prove to the world that THEY are the only big bosses here. The case is more personal than judicial.

Shankar Jun 26, 2013 01:36pm

It is only just that Gen. Musharaf gets tried for subverting democracy when he imposed the army rule. Declaring emergency, to quell unrest and overcome chaos, cannot be considered a crime. Which is worse - letting the security situation degrade through inaction like what the PPP goverment did or taking the bull by the horn like what Musharaf did. By judging Musharaf unfairly now, a precedent might be set which will prevent future governments from taking any strong action against violent agitations, terrorism and people taking law into their own hands!

Guest63 Jun 26, 2013 01:41pm

In my humble opinion , Justice must be done and who ever comes its way , must be punished , old /new/current/past rulers/ruled , who ever regardless of his/her physical/moral/financial/judicial/power of tanks,bombers,submarines/ , Each and Every one must face the music ....... Can this be done ( ?) .......... Will it be done (??) .... or Will we see only windows dressing ( most likely , ) in the views of Ahmed Reza Kasuri .... its all a "judical poetry" being read by the PM and his team and in the words of one horab justice on the bench , the answers from the care takers were much better than the reply form the Govt ....

a paki Jun 26, 2013 03:24pm

Good analysis of the situation. First of all Govt. should punish those who stole the 1990 Elections and then all Judges who validated the 1999 Martial law must be tried in treason case. Then Musharraf trial will begin.

KS Jun 26, 2013 09:41pm

Evil hearts and evil minds are a black mark on humanity. Is it a coincidence that judges and lawyers wear black and act similarly. Going after Musharraf clealy shows the mindset of the judiciary and the PM. Is there any doubt that the judgement we will get will be unbiased and fair. Not in my mind.

V. C. Bhutani Jun 26, 2013 10:37pm

One cannot set out to reopen all questions of the past. If we begin, there is no knowing how far back the story might go. There have been errors before 1998 also. Does that mean we go back to to the elections of 1971, which were not honoured by many who are no longer with us? Do we put them all on trial - posthumously? What purpose will it serve? Besides, let us not delude others or ourselves: the democracy experiment is far from being a thumping success. The apple cart could be upset by any angry general tomorrow morning.

DrT_K Jun 26, 2013 10:40pm

Good analysis, but you are asking for the moon. Look at the reality around us in Pakistan. Who came to power; who was in power; what did they acheive??? Do we have a fair society, where JUSTCE prevails in all corners and all aspects of life? So, let us get real. The reality is that Musharraf was just another ruler and another madcap experiment in a country of fools. He did better than all our so-called democrats; he didn't really behave like a tin-pot dictator; he made many glaring mistakes, but on the whole his was a rule of decent men and women. Let us join together as a Nation. Let us forget Musharraf and careen on. Most likely the reckless way in which things are being run we have a lot more in store for us. Let us not shoot ourselves in the foot repeatedly. Let us brace ourselves for what is to come. Peace!!