PML-N in a fix over concession for Musharraf

April 02, 2014

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File photo
File photo

ISLAMABAD: An overwhelming majority within the PML-N is reported to be against allowing former president retired Gen Pervez Musharraf to travel to the UAE to see his ailing mother and get treatment for his own heart ailment.

A party source privy to an intense meeting of the PML-N’s top leadership held at the Prime Minister Office on Tuesday to discuss the issue told Dawn that only a few were in favour of lifting the travel ban on the former army chief, who was indicted by the Special Court on Monday for high treason.

The media wing of the PM Office remained silent over the meeting, which was presided over by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. It was attended, among others, by Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, Defence Minister Khwaja Asif, Petroleum Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, Minister for States and Frontier Region retired Lt Gen Abdul Qadir Baloch, Information Minister Pervez Rashid, Sardar Mehtab Abbasi and special assistant to the prime minister, Irfan Siddiqui.

According to the source, the meeting lasted about three hours and witnessed some cogent arguments. The prime minister remained tight-lipped throughout the huddle and patiently listened to his party’s senior colleagues. He exhorted the participants to speak their mind over the issue.

Although in minority, the ones who spoke in favour of accepting Mr Musharraf’s application seeking removal of his name from the exit control list (ECL) argued that after his formal indictment, the first in country’s history, the PML-N had achieved its stated goal of putting the dictator on trial and now allowing him to see his ailing mother would further bring good name to the party.

“Our plate is already full of pressing issues such as militancy, energy crisis and a fragile economy. Therefore, it’s better to pay full attention to them instead of getting bogged down in the trial of Musharraf,” the source quoted a party leader as saying.

After the Special Court put the ball in the government’s court, “we should give Gen Musharraf relief on pure humanitarian ground and take due credit for that”, the leader added.

In its short order, the court had asked the former military ruler to seek his travel restrictions removed from the government because the matter did not fall under its jurisdiction.

The government had placed his name on ECL in response to a Supreme Court order issued on April 8 last year.

The three-judge Special Court ruled that the accused (Musharraf) was free to travel both inside and outside the country.

And the ones who were in majority and against the lifting of travel ban said the party since October 12, 1999, when the former army chief toppled the PML-N government in a coup, had waited for this moment and, hence should firmly stick to it.

“Even if we allow him to travel abroad to be with his mother on pure compassionate ground, opposition parties will cry hoarse against us for not standing our ground. Some even will accuse the government of giving him permission under some foreign pressure,” the PML-N source quoted a minister as saying. “Politically, it will be a suicidal move which the party leadership at best should avoid,” he added.

A close aide to the prime minister told Dawn: “As far as my personal observation is concerned, the government will remove his name from the ECL only on court orders, and not on its own.”

There will be a win-win situation for both the government and Mr Musharraf if he gets a favourable decision from the court because if the government does so, it will be in for lots of criticism.

Khwaja Asif and Pervez Rashid had on Monday announced in the National Assembly that the government on its own would not allow Mr Musharraf to travel abroad.

“To punish or set him free, the government will only follow the court orders,” Khwaja Asif said.

The prime minister’s aide said that eventually it would be Mr Sharif’s call whether to accept or reject Musharraf’s application.

However, regardless of the outcome, one thing is for sure — the prime minister by all means wants completion of Musharraf’s treason trial by the Special Court.