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PM rules out Musharraf`s treason trial

August 20, 2009

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ISLAMABAD, Aug 19 Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani on Wednesday ruled out his government would seek a trial of former military president Pervez Musharraf for high treason, declining — at the risk of a political fallout — a PML-N demand in the National Assembly for the second time this month that the house pass a resolution to call for such a course.

Mr Gilani seemed moving even a step away from his earlier stand that he would act against ex-army chief General Musharraf for violating the Constitution if the 342-seat lower house made a demand in a unanimous resolution, by questioning the feasibility of the idea in a tumultuous sitting marked by angry shouts between lawmakers of the opposition PML-N and government-allied MQM.

“We should do what is doable,” he said while responding to a hard-hitting speech from opposition leader Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, who said he had the draft of a resolution ready and would move it in the house if the prime minister agreed, to demand that the government invoke Article 6 of the Constitution to try the former president for his controversial Nov 3, 2007, emergency proclamation that was nullified by a July 31 ruling by the Supreme Court.

The opposition leader had first raised the issue in the house on Aug 5, saying his party had decided to move a resolution during the current session if the government did not act on its own as a consequence of the Supreme Court judgement, to which the prime minister responded by promising an improbable course that “if the whole house decides (on such course) in a unanimous resolution, we will implement it”.

The plan later seemed to have fizzled out after reported statements by PML-N leader Nawaz Sharif and other party spokesmen that a parliamentary resolution was not needed and that government should invoke Article 6 on its own after a 14-judge bench of the apex court declared the Nov 3 emergency and other related decrees as “unconstitutional, ultra-vires of the constitution and consequently being illegal and of no legal effect”.

But the opposition leader stuck to his promise by raising the issue again on Wednesday, two days before the possible prorogation of the session, saying he wanted the prime minister's nod because his party alone could not see the resolution through and to see “who stands where”.

“Whoever is friend of Musharraf is traitor,” PML-N members chanted during Chaudhry Nisar's speech in response to MQM protest shouts against his criticism of the Karachi-based party's association first with Pakistan's third military dictator late Gen Zia-ul-Haq and then with Gen Musharraf, bringing repeated calls from Speaker Fehmida Mirza for calm and tolerance between the rivals.

The prime minister said he had put the condition of a unanimous resolution for invoking Article 6 after the court ruling although he had already stated after taking office last year that he had forgiven Mr Musharraf and the ruling PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto's statement after the assassination of party leader Benazir Bhutto in December 2007 that “democracy is the best revenge”.

“If you bring a unanimous resolution (even now) or our allies permit me, I am at your service,” Mr Gilani said and added that “unless you agree (on this), parliament will not pass a resolution.”

This apparently dismayed the PML-N benches before the chair adjourned the house until 5pm on Thursday, disallowing the opposition leader to comment on the prime minister's speech.

The opposition leader accused the ruling PPP of forgetting its promises in the past to try Gen Musharraf , and said “It should be decided today who stands where.”

MQM deputy parliamentary leader Haider Abbas Rizvi complained his party had been used by both the PPP and PML-N whenever they needed its support but ignored afterwards and even subjected to military operations as he replied to the opposition leader's criticism for what he called “befooling the people of Karachi”, siding with two military dictators and joining coalitions with the parties it accused of operations against it.

The house consumed most of the time on the treason issue after the question hour and a passing, without a debate, two government bills seeking to amend the Guardians and Wards Act of 1890, and the Family Courts Act of 1964.