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RETIRED General Pervez Musharraf has once again united a polarised polity and society. On Friday, as he and his legal eagles were running from court house to the police headquarters, the rest of the country came together to criticise him in the media and on the streets; in the Senate, politicians once again called for his trial under Article 6, merely underscoring the legal woes of the former dictator. In this context, it’s hard to not join this “sound and fury” calling for a trial of ‘public enemy number one’ but to do so would not be just. Indeed, no one can deny the role played by Gen Musharraf in the coup of 1999 and then in November 2007 when he imposed an emergency, deposed the judiciary, tried to censor the media and threw many people behind bars. But was he acting alone both times? In all honesty, he was not.

If the 1999 coup was bloodless it was because it enjoyed more widespread support than Pakistan would today like to admit to. And this is exactly why the emergency was rolled back in 2007 because it was unacceptable to the public at large. More than that, a trial of Gen Musharraf alone would simply throw a cover over his accomplices — the generals who helped him, the judiciary that validated the coup, the politicians who joined him and many others. To hold him guilty alone would simply perpetuate this myth that a military coup and the subversion of democracy is the ‘sin’ of an individual instead of a collective act.

This has even been acknowledged in the historic Supreme Court verdict on the 2007 emergency that pointed out the role played by judges and politicians in upholding undemocratic acts. In fact, that verdict was a sign of the maturity of Pakistani society — it had acknowledged past mistakes and was now ready to move forward. To now focus on Gen Musharraf and press for his trial would be reversal of our society’s evolution. His trial, if the current national mood prevails, will smack of vindictiveness and a desire for revenge — emotions that are best avoided. It needs to be realised that Gen Musharraf’s departure in 2008 and his arrest at present are possible because the door to military coups has been shut than to presume that his trial alone will prevent further coups. Sometimes justice is best served by letting history be, rather than forcibly dragging it into the present. Gen Musharraf too is part of Pakistan’s past and he should be left there.

Comments (22) Closed

(Dr.) B.N. Anand Apr 21, 2013 12:13pm
That is very matured and wise suggestion. BNA
Jehangir Apr 21, 2013 12:02pm
Unfortunately the General opened this Pandora's box by returning to Pakistan.
Sameer Apr 21, 2013 08:44pm
Nicely written article. I am really confused with the role of the Judiciary, I was praising them few days back but now I am confused. Those people who are defaulters and have corruption charges were barred from election by ECP are allowed to contest the election by Judiciary. If you compare the last five years with General Musharraf's nine years, undoutably you will say Pakistani's were doing much better, if someone is saying no then most probably eyes and ear both are closed. The people who did well in last five years are politicians and corrupt people, ruined the economy also the image of Pakistan abroad. Even the coup was uncontitutional but most of the educated people suppoted that. We pray that he will be out of this mess.
T. Sheikh Apr 21, 2013 10:59am
A mature comment, let us hope and pray that TV anchors and their ilk too grow up and live and let live.
mammurabi Apr 21, 2013 01:29pm
In the terminology of Ch Shujaat"Mitti Pao"
ahmed_1 Apr 21, 2013 01:27pm
Pakistan will never know peace until a clear message is sent that any rogue general who seeks to establish himself as the ruler of Pakistan will be brought to trial for treason. This editorial does a great disservice to the nation by arguing against this important step towards re-establishing the supremacy of the law that generals have considered themselves to be above in Pakistan.
akhter husain Apr 21, 2013 07:54pm
Reconciliation is not permissible according to judgement of superior court if it is specific for one person.I however fully agree that the matter be left to history to give its judgement and let Musharraf participate in election to face the people who ,having a collective wisdom, will give an ever lasting decision.
Iqbal Apr 21, 2013 02:20pm
v for vandetta
samin ahmed Apr 21, 2013 02:09pm
you are absolutely right! let the by gones be by gone especially for what he did in economic field for the people of Pakistan. We, living far from Pak now realize how wrong it was to divide India.!!
Arshad Jamil Apr 21, 2013 02:56pm
Thanks for cool headed editorial, in the tradition of DAWN to uphold integrity and values, against all opposition.
Yash Apr 22, 2013 10:05am
Gen.Musharraf Should be give every opportunity within the law to defend himself at the same time he should be treated in humane manner without feeling of revenge.Let the courts decide his guilt and then punish him accordingly
Dr. D. Prithipaul Apr 21, 2013 03:55pm
To let the past be, in the matter of Musharraf, may be sound advice for Pakistan and for all Pakistanis. But eliminating the past in the Musharraf story does not imply elimination the past in the subject of Pakistani foreign policies, its participation in the cold war fought by the Western powers, and particularly of all the wars and terror acts perpetrated against India and the Indians. As regards Musharraf and how to deal with his past actions, the Dawn recommendation to let things be actually testifies to the sorry lack of moral, legal and political resources which could have enabled the establishment of a social order marked by the unassailable majesty of a secular form of justice and by the satisfactory elimination of all the weaknesses, disloyalties, institutionalised forms of cowardice, demonstrated by the high and the low, in the display of the shabbiness of an educated middle class in which they were embedded during so many decades.
AHMAD Apr 21, 2013 05:53pm
I am afraid the army along with currupt politicians will try to void the past by using the court ruling in the name of securit, as they had done in..955 to save Ayub Khan from jail term. Any body remember?. Do not repeat this time. Musharaf or Zia, no one is above Pakistani law. Pakistan Zindabad.
Law101 Apr 21, 2013 04:13pm
Ahmed Apr 21, 2013 05:45pm
U can only move forward but learning and taking care of the past mistakes. Not overlooking them. In latter case u're just bound to repeat them. Even if we deal with musharaf with an iron hand it will still be acceptable to me becuase it will create an example out of him and any next dictator will think twice before taking sucha decision. Otherwise we'll always be letting by gones be bygones. Secondly, Mushi had his own mantra of dealing with a stern hand, why not just let him taste his own medicine. A wrong should be wrong in all cicrumstances. Only bcoz we accepted him in 1999, that him courage to do whatever he did afterwards. BTW I Hate all current politians but we'll have to keep filtering out people through democracy to find someone better. And that means judging them as well. In my opinion same trials should be done for the last ppp gov as well.
introspecteeve Apr 21, 2013 04:58pm
Very very disappointing Dawn editorial. Yes, Musharaf did not do this alone but wasnt he the "Officer in charge" of that coup? Whom should we hold responsible for that coup? At this moment of history, when there is a chance that culprits can be brought to justice, Dawn suggests that we should "sweep the dirt under the carpet". I say try the whole bunch. The corps commanders who served under him at that time. The politicians who joined him later. The judges who validated his coup (Yes! including this CJ) and even Imran Khan (though I am huge fan of him and PTI). History doesnt give many chances and perhaps this is our one and only chance.
Cynic Apr 21, 2013 04:57pm
Very well put, let history decide his fate rather then disgruntled politicians and a vengeful judiciary.
Farrukh Apr 21, 2013 05:22pm
You should have stressed to bring all of them accountable along with Musharraf since Supreme Court has already acknowledged that were collective crimes. Without making them accountable don't expect rule of law as accountability is an imperative factor.
Shahzad Akhund Apr 21, 2013 04:30pm
I disagree with your editorial comment. A court trial, especially for a person who had a unique opportunity to set things right but chose otherwise, must be undertaken. If, as you mention, there were others involved, then the court trial would be the best avenue to get that information out. Another, and I believe, an important benefit of a court trial would be to set an example that even a general of the armed forces is not above the law of the land. Here, I would like to remind you of events that happened, not too long ago, in Argentina and Chile. If a leader like Z.A.B. can be executed, even after a split decision of the court, then leaving someone like Pervez Musharraf alone without a fair trial will be both unfair and disgraceful. Finally, I like to point out that a court trial cannot be compared to revenge. Fair trials in the courts of law are what civilized societies do.
Iqbal Carrim Apr 21, 2013 05:13pm
Pakistan won independance from Britain in 1947.It now requires independance from America.An independant judiciary is a good starting point.
P.R.Koduri Apr 21, 2013 10:14pm
Very rightly said.
mazhar Apr 21, 2013 08:53pm
a very sensible and prudent approach... i wish we all think on these lines...