A day after PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif called on the government to facilitate the return of the ailing former military dictator Pervez Musharraf to Pakistan, senators — both from the opposition and the ruling coalition — weighed in on whether the ex-president should be allowed to come back.
The retired general had been hospitalised for the past few weeks. He was suffering from amyloidosis, a rare disease in which an abnormal protein called amyloid builds up in organs and tissues throughout the body.
During a sitting of the upper house of the parliament today (Wednesday), PPP senator and former prime minister Yousaf Raza Gillani raised a question: "Were you able to stop him when he was leaving (the country)? Will you be able to stop him from returning?"
"These decisions will not be taken by us ... they will be taken somewhere else," he said.
When Musharraf was still in Pakistan, the senator went on, "I had forgiven him". "If Pervez Musharraf wants to come back, he can. Pakistan is his home," Gillani said, continuing that he had no issues with the former dictator's return.
"But everyone should be treated equally," he added.
Late Tuesday night, Nawaz Sharif had tweeted that he had no "personal enmity or animosity" towards Musharraf, saying that he didn't want anyone else to suffer the traumas had had to endure for his loved ones.
His statement came after the Pakistan Army confirmed that Musharraf's family was in contact with the military regarding his mooted return to Pakistan. Inter-Services Public Relations Director General Major General Babar Iftikhar said that the former dictator's return to Pakistan from UAE was a decision for his family and doctors to make.
"The institution and its leadership have the stance that he should come back," he added.
Today's Senate session, however, reflected a divide among politicians over Musharraf's return.
'Our hands are tied'
Opening the topic for debate, Jamaat-i-Islami senator Mushtaq Ahmad Khan recalled that the Constitution of Pakistan had been victim to several injustices. "We are handicapped. Our hands and feet have been tied. We are just slaves."
Musharraf, he said, had been the "master of black and white" for 10 years. "He broke the Constitution twice and murdered the judiciary. The former chief justice of Pakistan was dragged by his hair ... The decision of the Peshawar High Court is in front of you," Mushtaq Khan went on.
He asserted that if Musharraf was brought back to the country, then the doors of the prisons should also be opened and courts should be closed because the judiciary "won't be needed".
Senator Raza Rabbani agreed that Musharraf had committed several atrocities. "But if his health is not good and he wants to return to the country, there is no problem."
He, however, pointed out that he could not talk on behalf of his party. "Things are very different when a person has been convicted by a court under Article 6 of the Constitution (high treason). It would be very inappropriate to give a state burial to such a person," the PPP leader added.
'Let the law run its course'
Meanwhile, PTI senator Ejaz Chaudhary called for the law to run its course. "Pervez Musharraf or whoever went out of the country for treatment should come back and the law should then take due course."
The country, he added, would only grow if the rule of law was equal for all.
PML-N Senator Irfan Siddiqui, too, was of a similar opinion. "Whatever Nawaz Sharif said was in a personal capacity. If the Constitution and the law are strong, let them chart the path."
"If not Pakistan, where else will Musharraf go," he further stated, adding that if a man was "on his death bed", would he not even be allowed to return to his homeland.
JUI-F leader Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Haideri also highlighted that the retired general was fighting for his life at the moment and it wouldn't be fair to stop him from returning to Pakistan. "Even Nawaz Sharif left the country for medical treatment," he added.