Will Musharraf be Convicted for Treason?

The trail of Pakistan's former military leader and president General Pervez Musharraf on high treason charges by the government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif for declaring a state of emergency on November 3, 2007, has triggered a new debate. While many Pakistanis want Musharraf face justice, some analysts are questioning why he is not being tried for October 12, 1999 bloodless coup against the then government of Nawaz Sharif. Here are the two competing arguments amid new reports that the General may leave Pakistan under a deal in the coming weeks.

Posted on 01/11/14
Former Pakistani military leader and president General Pervez Musharraf. (Photo by Andrew._Griffin, Creative Commons License)
Former Pakistani military leader and president General Pervez Musharraf. (Photo by Andrew._Griffin, Creative Commons License)

Spurning advice across the board not to return to Pakistan and face a myriad number of legal problems, Musharraf successfully managed by default to put the Army as a whole into the dock.

 

Whither Courage And Valor?

Via Pakistan Today

By Arif Nizami

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 been 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. 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, a leading newspaper of Pakistan.

Musharraf and his close aides, Lt Gens Mahmood, Aziz, Usmani, etc committed an “offence against the State” in Oct 1999.   Condoned by the Supreme Court (SC), it was still a violation of the Constitution which all soldiers take an oath to uphold and protect.  Was this in good faith to save the country from impending chaos or a desperate measure meant to save their own necks because of the Kargil episode?   Like Kargil all the other Corps Commanders and Principal Staff Officers (PSOs) in GHQ knew nothing about Oct 12, 1999 till the coup actually took place.  There was grudging support for Musharraf’s “fait accompli” countering his sacking, Mian Nawaz Sharif sending Gen Jahangir Karamet home in Oct 1998 was not appreciated by the Army rank and file.  The abysmal state of the economy, corruption, bad governance, etc were used to justify the coup by Musharraf’s lot “as saviors of the nation”.   Funnily enough, no one raised any protest in the streets.

 

The irony is that the perception of rampant corruption prevalent was mostly because of the excesses of the previous PPP regime. Billions of rupees were taken as loans from the nationalized banks without proper collateral, with no intention of returning them.   The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) initially did an excellent job targeting the corrupt, unfortunately close associates of (then) NAB Chairman Lt Gen Muhammad Amjad, himself an honest person, enriched themselves by extorting money manipulating the awful practice of granting “plea bargains”. NAB can regain its credibility targeting those “living beyond one’s means” investigating these “patriots” as well as the fabulous wealth of some successors of Amjad like Khalid Maqbool and Muneer Hafeez.  Formed in 2002, Musharraf “King’s Party” (PML (Q)) consisted of a whole bunch of politicians on NAB initiated Exit Control List (ECL).

Musharraf’s strong suit of accountability went up in flames with his enacting of the shameful and obnoxious instrument of disaster, the National Reconciliation Order (NRO) 2007.  Negotiating the NRO in 2007 Musharraf’s advisors paved the way for the man most targetted by NAB for corruption to become the President of Pakistan. Thanks to well calculated filibustering by the Supreme Court (SC), he lasted out his entire term.  Incidentally, what was (former President Asif Ali) Zardari’s quid pro quo reward for Musharraf’s “advisors”?  For this indelible black mark on Pakistan’s history and illegal transfer of billions of US dollars abroad, they are as much culpable as Musharraf! It is pathetic to see the media trumpeting the “nine diseases” airing Musharraf’s medical condition, most 70-year olds have no less. Zardari spent years in hospital when in custody, medically certified “dementia” prevented him from appearing in Swiss Courts and remembering our US $ 60 million he secreted in Swiss Banks.

 

Musharraf trial in a civilian court for his actions as an Army Chief would set a precedent having grave consequences. If a former COAS can be so charged, what remains sacred? This would open a Pandora’s Box, every court in the land will go to town questioning those in uniform across the board on frivolous issues. To preserve the sanctity of good military order and discipline, no country in the world permits this. On the other hand whoever that person may be, they must be held accountable for misusing the authority of their rank and position to make money and/or property for themselves, their relations and friends. They must be dealt with under the Pakistan Army Act.

 

One would not like to see Gen (Retd) Tariq Majid, full of bluster and arrogance, answer for Lal Masjid in a civilian court or for that matter the Corps Commanders Lahore and Karachi in 2003 running amok in DHAs (Defense Housing Authorities) real estate (my article “Creek City, Bleak City” of Aug 2, 2003). Ghazi still makes a living promoting projects in DHA Karachi, the influence he parlays with former subordinates may not have propriety, it is his right as a “civilian lobbyist”.  Kayani established precedence by instituting military enquires against former general officers in the NLC Case and the Railways scam for their excesses while they were in uniform.

 

Flash forward to Musharraf’s forcible resignation as President in 2008 when he was given a graceful send-off from the Presidency complete with a ceremonial guard of honor, nobody batted an eyelash when he left the country a year later in 2009, living a life of leisure. His exit took place after an understanding with the PPP (Pakistan People’s Party of Benazir Bhutto) government, brokered by Kayani as the Army Chief.

 

There was a second part of that deal, “immunity” under the 18th Amendment for all Musharraf actions, PPP reneged on the second part of the agreement. Knowing that, why did Musharraf come back? Why did Kayani not insist that the PPP honor their agreement? Kayani was badly compromised by Asif Zardari making it a point to publicly enquire about his two brothers’ “welfare”. By failing to ensure that PPP kept their bargain, Kayani left a ticking time-bomb for his successor. Incidentally (is he settling in Australia?) Kayani usurped the prerogative of the incoming COAS by shuffling favorites (and not so favored) during his last 30 days, one prime appointment slot was not due for 3 months.

 

Hating the Army and hated in turn by the entire rank and file, Zardari is extremely cautious when talking about those in uniform in public, putting discretion beyond valor, from time to his venom surfaces. In contrast Mian Nawaz Sharif and Imran Khan are generally very much liked by the Armed Forces, for some unearthly reason they seem hell-bent on baiting the uniformed lot.  Egging them on, mainly using Bilawal as a proxy, Zardari must be laughing himself sick at their naivety.

 

It is not fair that the Army Chief, barely 45 days since taking over should be boxed into a corner for reasons not of his making, nor that of the present generation of the Army rank and file. Our soldiers have given (and continue giving) great sacrifices in the ongoing counter-insurgency that they have mostly successfully tackled. To get a sense of their commitment Mian Sahib should visit his soldiers in the combat area, Zardari was cautious enough to never dare visit any army unit as their Supreme Commander. Looking after Army’s discipline and conscious of the feelings of the rank and file while staying loyal to the Constitution, Gen Raheel Sharif has to walk a tightrope.  One would request Mian Nawaz Sharif and the Courts not to put this soldier to such an acid test, damned if he will, damned if he won’t.

 

Musharraf will soon become a footnote to history, charge him under military law or put him on an aircraft now. This country has a great future if Mian Sahib “leaves the Army alone” and concentrates on getting his economic act together, not letting non-issues distract from his effort. The democrats of this country should take another look at the polls which clearly indicate whom the public trusts more.

 

Murphy’s Law,” if it ain’t broke don’t fix it”!

The writer is Pakistan’s leading defense and political analyst. He can be contacted at ikram.sehgal@wpplsms.com

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