Whither courage and valour?

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With the stress mounting, the commando general is cracking up

Pervez Musharraf, the commando general who has always taken pride over his bravado and courage, is finally cracking up.  He is loath to appear before the special court constituted to try him for treason.

Perhaps waiting for divine intervention, his lawyers have been resorting to delaying tactics in order to stall the trial. Meanwhile Musharraf, perhaps hoping for a miracle to happen, was diverted from his way to court on Thursday to a military hospital owing to a sudden cardiac problem.

Now whether it was a ploy to avoid the court and the certain indictment or whether Musharraf really got the pain where he says he hurts shall remain a point of conjecture.

Having said that, owing to his legal team working overtime to be exceptionally inventive about evading indictment and trial, in public perception this would be considered another similar antic.

After maintaining a stony silence for so many months, suddenly he had become very active on the media. He had denounced the treason case as a ‘vendetta’ against him and had also claimed, the military as an institution was upset about the impending treason trial.

The former military dictator still remains delusional about the amount of good he did for the people of Pakistan during his nine-year rule.  He landed in Pakistan last March virtually unsung despite his “millions of followers” on the social media. This alone should have served as a reality check for him. But ostensibly it has not.

Musharraf has trying his utmost to invoke the support of the army to bail him out this tight spot. After his protégé, the former army chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, refused to do his bidding, he was pinning his hopes on his successor Gen Raheel Sharif.

In a most recent statement he was found praying for the success of Gen Sharif, who, admittedly having had Musharraf as one of his mentors, must have some consideration towards him. Yet the attempt to involve the COAS to save his own skin was too dangerous a game to play.

A canard was being spread that the trial of Musharraf would result in a coup d’tat.  Why, because the role of the military in civilian affairs would come under question?  In this sense some claim (not entirely without justification) that it would not merely be the trial of Musharraf but of the military itself.

The enigmatic Ahmed Raza Kasuri as Musharraf’s lawyer has taken the novel plea that November 3, 2007 Emergency was imposed by the former dictator as the COAS and not as president in uniform. Hence he could only be tried in a military court under the Army Act.

This was another blatant, albeit desperate act, to drag the military into the equation. In Pakistan’s checkered political history, politicians including prime ministers have been tried by civilian courts and convicted as well.

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Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was even hanged as a result of what is today generally accepted as judicial murder on late general Zia ul Haq’s watch. Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani was sent packing only recently by the apex court.

However, a former military strongman being tried by a civilian court is a first for Pakistan, which may have its repercussions. A minuscule minority of Bonapartists in the army would certainly be upset.

Civilian control over the armed forces is a sacrosanct principal of democracy, but still an elusive dream for Pakistan. Despite the advent of a functioning democracy Gen Kayani was declared the 34th most powerful man in the world in 2011 by Forbes magazine.

Unless Mian Nawaz Sharif makes a royal mess of things again, the army as an institution has come to the conclusion that overt intervention is not its cup of tea. While the army’s institutional interests were being best served while remaining in the background, why should it overtly intervene?

Notwithstanding histrionics of his lawyers, Musharraf should get a fair trial. The former strongman does not hide his contempt for Sharif.  He has accused the prime minister of being a vindictive man. The government should nevertheless ensure that justice should not only be done but should be manifestly seen to be done.

Perhaps Musharraf feels that since he let the Sharifs go into exile as a part of a deal, perhaps they should pay him back in the same coin?

First, Musharraf only sent the Sharifs into exile after thoroughly humiliating them and trying them for hijacking in an anti-terrorism court. That too, like his predecessor coupsters, was no largesse on his part. Rather it was a cynical move to perpetuate himself.

He had successfully cut a 10-year deal with the Sharifs. With Benazir Bhutto already in self-exile, he had a field day to nurture his “true democracy”. The PML-Q and the so-called Patriots were largely composed of breakaways from the leaderless and demoralized PML-N and the PPP.

Secondly, Musharraf’s trial no longer is a matter solely between him and the government. The whole political spectrum including the mainstream opposition want the matter of generals sending politicians packing settled once and for all.

Even the PTI’s Imran Khan, who has quite curiously been silent on the issue, perhaps could not afford to openly support Musharraf. However, the MQM supremo Altaf Hussain has understandably come to his rescue.

Another subterfuge being used by the former dictator’s legal eagles is that the trial would open a Pandora’s box. Precisely to avoid that possibility, the October1999 coup is not being made the starting point.

The military high command at the time was a party to Musharraf’s coup de tat. The higher judiciary not only endorsed the dictator’s patently unconstitutional action but also granted him enough time to play roughshod with democratic institutions unimpeded. They would be dragged in the trial if October 12 1999 was made the point of reference.

The notorious Mafia boss in the crime infested Chicago of 1931 Al Capone was convicted for tax evasion, as it was difficult to nab him for the enormous crimes he had committed.

Similarly the state has made November 3, 2007 Emergency the benchmark to try Musharraf.

Like in the case of blatant murder of the Baloch leader Akbar Bugti the former dictator is trying to hide behind the fig leaf of the rules of business under a parliamentary system. No doubt the technocrat Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz, in comfortable exile since 2008, was known to be hawkish about dealing with the regime’s opposition.

But everyone knew who called the shots. Now Musharraf who wears his courage and valour on his sleeve should own up to his crimes.

Musharraf’slawyers’ attempts to thwart the trial and avoid his personal appearance owing to security concerns were rightfully rejected by the special court. There have been various incidents of explosives being found round the former strongman’s route to the court

According to his own admission Musharraf has many enemies who would love to physically eliminate him. Hence it goes without saying that he should be provided foolproof security.

However, being a former commando he should face the music like a man. Benazir Bhutto despite clear and present danger stood for her principles – eventually paying the ultimate price. And that also happened on Musharraf’s watch.

Essentially it’s not a question of whether it’s vendetta of the Sharifs or the judges, it is Musharraf’s own character, the stuff that he claimed he was made of. And now, six long years after that assassination, when Musharraf was to measure up for courage, he has so obviously been found wanting.

 The writer is Editor, Pakistan Today.

8 COMMENTS

  1. In reality Musharraf strengthened MQM & fully recognised them,there is no doubt that Musharraf came to Pakistan on the behest of MQM to join MQM & contest election from their platform,the pity is that being Chief of Pakistan army he sideded with MQM reasons
    known best to him & every Pakistani & political party know this.

  2. Case must be initiated from 12 oct.1999 so that all real character may be dragged in.selected justice is not acceptable.All th e three judges are bised.one cann"t expect justice from them.

  3. We do not agree with the contents. Army has role to play when the politicians start destroying democratic systems.

  4. Minus his uniform, he is half the man he tried to portray. How come he owns expensive real estate, apartments in London, ,Dubai, USA, Switzerland etc, but has never paid any tax in Pakistan, just like other corrupt bureaucrats and politicians.

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