Waiting for the (in)glorious comeback
It has been more than three years since Musharraf left the country, but it’s on the announcement of his return that the detailed report of his assets has been published. The report is obviously not just mere fancy, although the reporter is notorious for passing his wishes off as news. Nor does it look like an investigative report, which is simply beyond the reporter’s capability. It likely came out of a file that was handed over to him by an institution, in order to discourage Musharraf from heading back to Pakistan.
In other news, Rehman Malik has chosen to make public the preparations for Musharraf’s prospective stay at the Landhi Jail. The interior minister doesn’t appear too keen on the retired general boarding that flight home. Hardly surprising, considering Zardari’s already full plate, what with the NRO, Memogate, the judiciary, the state within a state, etc. True, Zardari had attempted the impossible (crazy?) task of putting the ISI under the ministry of interior, but those were entirely different times.
Back then, Nawaz Sharif and Imran Khan used to be Musharraf’s fiercest critics. However, Imran has since employed half of Musharraf’s team, and now that people have started taking him seriously he obviously doesn’t want to have to go after the current COAS’s former boss. Sharif, threatened by Imran’s support in the establishment and keen to offer his own services instead, isn’t exactly fancying a fight with Musharraf either.
The Supreme Court faces its own set of troubles in the event of Musharraf’s return. One, it legitimised Musharraf’s coup of 1999 and gave him a free hand to amend the constitution (one will have to search very hard to find a parallel elsewhere). Two, Musharraf is likely to name names, if forced to, and it will be difficult to convict the “originator” without soiling the name of the “guarantor” of NRO. Also, on issues such as high treason and the emergency, Musharraf’s partners in crime, including the corps commanders, will inevitably enter the frame, causing the court obvious difficulties. Three, to project any semblance of consistency, the court will have to be as active and enthusiastic on cases against Musharraf as it has been on cases against the present government.
However, the institution that lands in the most precarious position if the comeback happens is the one Musharraf served for over 40 years. Considering the short memories of people of this country, Musharraf’s departure was the best thing that could have happened. Now that he is coming back, letting civilian courts try him will set a bad example. Even trying such a high profile general in military courts is a painful option.
Musharraf has also recently declared that Pakistan should have diplomatic relations with Israel. Makes sense, because if we couldn’t handle Bangal, and we still can’t handle Balochistan, and we have made a royal mess of the rest of Pakistan; it is crazy to pretend to be the defender of the non-existent Muslim ummah. But this wouldn’t exactly have endeared the general to his former institution. By the way, I always marvel at the great insight our generals start displaying so soon after taking off their khakis.
Musharraf has now managed to achieve something that he couldn’t in all those years in power, that is, unite all the key players by threatening to make a glorious comeback. I therefore believe that the odds of Musharraf actually landing in Pakistan are very high indeed. However, it is going to be very interesting if he manages to get back somehow.
Let’s examine the likely scenario. In many ways, it will be a rerun of the Raymond Davis episode. The opposition parties will be forced to demand the federal government to arrest him. For obvious reasons, the PPP-led coalition will resist the temptation, and would much rather the Punjab provincial government bask in this glory. Nawaz Sharif will leave for England for his medical checkup (and an operation or two if needed), and on his return will decide to leave this matter alone. The SC will probably hear the cases just like it did the Asghar Khan case. All this, in the best interests of the country of course.
Musharraf is reported to be seeking guarantees from King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia before landing in Pakistan. The irony! Not very long ago, it was Sharif who was rescued by the Holy Kingdom but now the boot seems to be on the other foot. The boot is on the other foot in another respect as well. Benazir had made a comeback after getting security guarantees from the Musharraf administration, but now Musharraf is in need of such arrangements. Benazir’s return didn’t go too well. The unfortunate scenario of Musharraf meeting with a similar fate could solve a lot of problems for a remarkably high number of players, including the religious fundamentalists who almost succeeded in killing him even when he enjoyed presidential security. Returning to Pakistan, therefore, may not be in Musharraf’s best interests either.
The writer is a member of the band Beygairat Brigade that has recently released the single Aaloo Anday.