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Judicial overreach: Musharraf ban

Updated May 03, 2013 03:35pm


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Former President Pervez Musharraf. — File Photo
Former President Pervez Musharraf. — File Photo

BANNED for life — Pervez Musharraf’s abortive return to politics has been brought to a screeching halt by the Peshawar High Court order on Tuesday. Parsing the logic of the order is delicate business: Musharraf has clearly committed grave crimes against the Constitution and the superior judiciary was a direct target of Gen Musharraf in 2007. But there are two other, relevant matters here: one, the issue before the PHC chief justice was simply the former general’s disqualification from contesting a National Assembly seat in Chitral; and two, Gen Musharraf has yet to be convicted in any of the numerous cases, and countless allegations, lodged against him. So in many ways, the high court has put the judicial cart before the horse — an unhappy situation of judicial overreach where perhaps none was necessary.

For Gen Musharraf, the tightening of the judicial noose means he has largely run out of options, at least public, legal ones. All legal routes ultimately lead to the Supreme Court — and no one need be reminded who and what awaits him there. The issue, however, is larger than a former dictator and a superior judiciary unwilling to extend to him the legal proprieties a less controversial accused may expect. As much as there is a legal side to how best the case of Gen Musharraf ought to be dealt with, there is a political side too — ultimately, the decision to prosecute the former dictator and keep him out of politics ought to be one taken by the people’s representatives. Where the elected representatives have not moved as quickly or efficiently as the courts would have liked, the superior judiciary has tried to produce ad hoc solutions. But in the case of Gen Musharraf, the judiciary itself has much to account for given that his 1999 coup was sanctioned by the Supreme Court and that the referendum which allowed the then-army chief to stay on in power beyond the initial three years granted to him by the court also occurred with minimal judicial interference or objection.

Perhaps what the country needs most — and Gen Musharraf’s determination to return to Pakistan has created an opportunity for — is a meaningful and wide-ranging revisiting of Article 6 of the Constitution and the 1973 law operationalising the punishment for treason, a job a strong parliament after May 11 could undertake. More specifically, treating enablers and aiders and abettors at the same level as the general taking over in a coup, could perhaps help make it more difficult for a would-be coup-maker.


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Comments (35) Closed

Naila May 03, 2013 02:57pm

An excellent report about out-of-control judges. Instead of implementing the law, higher court judges have fallen victim to personal whims and vendetta.

Aftab May 03, 2013 03:36pm

Indeed, this is an impressively neutral and well articulated piece of advice to all parties, particularly the judiciary. Unfortunately, what our leaders and authorities need to be reminded every few years that nobody is indispensable and their the tables will be turned one way or the other. Be this be with Bhutto, Ziaul Haq, Benazir, Nawaz Sharif, Musharaf or Ch Iftikhar.

Assad May 04, 2013 02:09am

The only problem with your op-ed is that most in the judiciary and in the legal fraternity cannot read or comprehend angraizi. Perhaps your op-ed in Urdu would be more beneficial to them as it raises points which have been completely ignored by the judiciary and the lawyers.

khalidmurad1 May 04, 2013 08:39pm
Very precisely brought out that they are trying to put the cart before the horse. No doubt he is diehard Pakistani and would do anything for Pakistan. All clapping for our so called "Independent Judiciary", which has declared Musharraf a convict, without a judicial trial and have debarred him from participating in elections, sure of him to be a convict, what an example of classical justice? Respectable CJ, after having taken oath on PCO twice to become the Chief Justice, suddenly becomes all washed up and cleansed, what a classical cleansing justice? CJ all by himself, coaxed, enticed and allured the people to make cases against Musharraf, by publishing his desire in almost all the daily newspapers, saying "Musharraf Sahib aagai han jis ka dil chahe hisab lale". There after a series of concocted allegations started pouring in from his loyalist. What a classical CJ? Black coat terrorist and their action during Musharraf
Ishaq May 03, 2013 05:50am
I am saddened to read not much on Kayani's last statement in your editorial. You should have criticised his attitude toward people and democracy.
Arshad Jamil May 03, 2013 12:51pm
Dear Editor Saheb: Bravo for writing on this subject of "Judicial Overreach". That is commendable. However it lacks conviction or passion. It is more diplomatic, like your saying, "Musharraf has clearly committed grave crimes against the Constitution ..." That is like passing judgement. Did not ZAB alone flounderer the constitution, in Four Hours, as your friend Cawasjee used to remind every one.
Agha Ata (USA) May 03, 2013 12:45pm
Your last three lines are doubtful, especially after the existing situation that has been designed to insure who is going to win. :(
Malik May 03, 2013 12:46pm
So what Dawn is really saying that imposing martial laws is no offence in Pakistan. And that anybody trying to bring such a person to book is overreaching himself. So next time there is a coup, Dawn should welcome it with open arms.
Bubba May 03, 2013 10:49am
Nice Editorial. Shabby performance by Pakistan judiciary which will reinforce the international image of a corrupt/inept judiciary.
Aftab May 03, 2013 12:21pm
Excellent editorial. Indeed, what judiciary has been doing is nothing but revenge - even revenge for something that has not yet proven. Musharaf knew CJ's intent and personality and that is why he tried to fix the problem but all went wrong.
Raja May 03, 2013 07:02pm
Article 6 of the constitution says that abrogating or suspending or attempting to abrogate or suspend the constitution is high treason. Penalty for high treason is death. When we do not follow the rules we establish, others are encouraged to flaunt the rules. Become a nation of laws, hang them when they commit high treason
Zee May 03, 2013 04:43pm
No Pakistan has become a corrupt republic that is disfunctional, and even the judiciary is corrupt and run by a dictator. That is very bad news.
Assad May 03, 2013 03:57pm
You have no idea what a ruthless dictator is, and had Musharraf been one, today you would not be writing such comments on the comments boards of a Pakistani newspaper and a Pakistani newspaper would have never published what you write. Perhaps people like you really need a ruthless dictator so you can finally experience what happens when living under one's rule. One thing for sure, if a uniform ever takes over the reigns of Pakistan again, he will ensure that he acts like a true dictator to tie in all lose ends that his predecessors like Musharraf, out of benevolence, did not bother to tie up.
Fazal May 03, 2013 05:39pm
First of all it is not Dawn saying. Dawn does not necessarily ascribe to the ideas of the writer. Moreover, the writer himself said that Musharraf has clearly committed crimes against the constitution. All he is saying is that imposing a life ban on the basis of allegations is wrong and there needs to be a conviction of Musharraf before a life ban is placed. Without a conviction this ban would be a case judicial overreach.
Saeed May 03, 2013 04:53pm
Judicial bias and un-necessary activism is evident against Musharraf. Well articulated article.
Muhammad Raja May 03, 2013 05:34pm
Article 6 of the Pakistan Constitution: Any person who abrogates or subverts or suspends or holds in abeyance, or attempts or conspires to abrogate or subvert or suspend or hold in abeyance, the Constitution by use of force or show of force or by any other unconstitutional means shall be guilty of high treason. What is unclear in the above statement? Are you denying that Musharraf did not abrogate / suspend the Constitution. Your 'being nice' & conciliatory approach confuses our military leaders. We need to string one dictator up so that others are forewarned of the consequences.
naseer nasar May 03, 2013 02:33pm
"the high court has put the judicial cart before the horse
Iqbal May 03, 2013 06:35am
you have right said that courts are putting the cart before the horse... fair trial is the right for every citizen of Pakistan... Musharraf is an ex-president so that makes it more important... however, the courts are rushing to judgments without following legal process.. alas...
Shahbaz Khan May 03, 2013 03:46pm
Spot on! I have new respect for Dawn's editorial staff. Thank you.
Najamuddin May 03, 2013 05:18am
Musharraf was overwhelmingly supported by the majority of people from all parts of the Country because they had been disappointed by the corrupt politicians again and again. God has given to him a chance to serve the ill-fated nation as a Messiah and true Reformer. But unfortunately he proved to be the worst ruthless dictator and devastator of the Nation who started his first civilian Govt with well known top corrupt politicians and bureaucrats, many already facing NAB and Courts' indictment. His betrayal of peoples's trust, victimization of top 50 Judges, abrogation of Constitution, Emergency and NRO tantamount to acts of treason and betrayal of trust.
Rashad May 03, 2013 07:48am
the only judicial thing happening in pakistan is judicial dictatorship!
Ishaq May 03, 2013 06:32am
Damn this brute. He has many in establishment to same him. Why Dawn has taken on itself to save this brute. Court can stop him. He is criminal. Everyone knows.
Ragh May 03, 2013 11:19am
It seems to me that Pakistan is becoming true people republic. It is very good news.
shankar May 03, 2013 06:38am
More like judicial vendetta!
Mueed P May 03, 2013 08:55pm
No, what the editorial is saying is that a court ought not to rule on issues that are not squarely before it, and that without a properly fleshed out factual record a court ought not to pass judgment. Since the issue before the PHC was Mr. Musharraf's disqualification that was the only issue the PHC should have ruled on. And since there has been no criminal trial and therefore finding of wrongdoing, a court cannot ban someone for life based on a judicial review of an administrative body's decision. The latter is typically on a legal standard of 'reasonableness' while the former is based on a
Shah May 03, 2013 10:59pm
This men is truely love Pakistan who left fame and fortune to serve his nation. But what he got was hate and Vendetta from the Judiciay. Who could not even wait for the trial and banned him for Life. He admits that he made mistakes during his tenure. No one talks about what good he did to this country economically and internationally.
patriots May 04, 2013 05:24pm
salman May 03, 2013 11:44pm
no hope of justice from such a low moral judiciary what happened to arsalan iftakhar case was evident enough of what moral values these judges have
aditya May 04, 2013 12:12am
justice is NOT blind in
Guest May 04, 2013 12:44am
and the extra judicial killings
patriots May 04, 2013 05:19pm
We fully agree with the editorial comment on Pervaiz Musharraf.The superior judiciary is rather seems to be over-reacting in case of him?? showing a vengeance rather than impartiality.Why not the judiciary spends its energy to try treason cases against those who had looted public money drowned public in poverty,darkness ,insecurity,corruption, terrorism etc, & still allowed to contest elections ??? ,& thus only in this way show their sincerity to their oath, to the nation & to bankrupt Pakistan.
Naseer May 03, 2013 12:59pm
Only Allah knows what everyone know. Please do not claim to be Allah, it is blasphemy and a great sin.
Mian Shahid Mehmood (@MianShahidasj) May 04, 2013 04:16am
Servant more loyal than the king himself, is the best explanation of what Peshawar High Court did. Such hyper-active attitude on part of judiciary would be counter productive for the nation. Being guardians of the constitution, the judges should stand tall to paint the impression that they are neutral. Judges please behave mature and make the people proud of you.
pervez May 03, 2013 03:15pm
There was no Marshal Law imposed by Musharraf. Please check before making such outlandish claims.
KHAN May 04, 2013 01:24pm
What about those judges who made it legal,starting from Zia.They are the main culprits.If Zia was hanged when it was broken first time,We would have been the strongest nation in this world.Even now ,not too late.Take out Zia's jaw and hang it,and beside that hang Musharraf and all the judges who have been supporting this.That will be real justice to the Martyr ZA BHUTTO