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Musharraf under siege
Friday, April 26, 2013
From Print Edition
Whether for the good of the country or for selfish reasons to save himself and his cronies from retribution for the Kargil adventure, Musharraf violated Article 6 of the constitution, overthrowing an elected government in 1999. The Supreme Court became an abettor to the coup by default when it gave him legal cover under the ‘doctrine of necessity’ with some honourable judges taking fresh oath under the Provisional Constitutional Order. Prosecution for the imposition of emergency in November 2007 is even murkier legally, restored by newly elected PM Gilani in April 2008. Why were legal proceedings not initiated all this time (in five years)?
The various allegations now being levelled against Musharraf include negligence leading to the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, Bugti’s murder, the Lal Masjid episode, etc. Placed under house arrest, Gen Musharraf is charged with incarcerating judges after proclaiming emergency in November 2007. Looking at the speed with which he is being legally pursued, one gets the impression that Musharraf is being hounded, negating the perception of a fair and impartial judiciary.
No case or FIR can be registered against the army (and by extension the army chief or the president) or the police on internal security duties or for conducting an operation. Musharraf was the president in November 2007, Zardari is the president today. Are we registering FIRs against Zardari or the PM for all the violence going on in the country? How can an FIR then be registered against Musharraf for Bugti, Benazir or Lal Masjid? What about the vast majority of our political elite paying ridiculously meagre amounts of taxes despite blatantly flaunting their fabulous wealth? Issues of national importance and public interest, notwithstanding, settling of personal scores seems to be the legal priority. The caretaker government prudently decided that indicting Musharraf was beyond its limited mandate.
Bugti declared a revolt against the state, publicly riding out of Dera Bugti on a camel brandishing an automatic rifle. Instead of the paramilitary Frontier Corps (FC) taking him to task, given its reasonable performance against the Marri and Bugti militants, the regular army was inducted. Immature decisions at the GHQ and corps levels resulted in the death of four very good officers negotiating Bugti’s surrender. They were killed along with Bugti when he detonated the explosives bringing down the roof of the cave where he was hiding. If they really wanted to murder him, a rocket launcher fired into the cave would have sufficed.
What about Rehman Malik’s rather bizarre behaviour in running off with the backup car abandoning his grievously injured leader, Benazir Bhutto, bleeding to death? Have the honourable judges gone through the findings of the UN Commission? Why should the buck stop at Musharraf’s for failing to give Benazir adequate protection? And was it deliberate? Why not prosecute the entire chain of command from the federal Interior Ministry to the local civil administration and the police?
Honourable Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui, who cancelled Gen Musharraf’s bail in a bailable offence, got 12,000 votes as the MMA candidate in the 2002 elections from NA-54. This raises a question of conflict of interest and fair play. Mullah Aziz’s lawyer in the Lal Masjid case, does his choice meet the parameters of justice? Musharraf is not helped by the dissemination of an outright canard being spread electronically by the likes of Maj Gen (r) Nusrat Naeem (formerly of the ISI and from Musharraf’s regiment) about the possible bias of the ATC judge Kauser Abbas Zaidi. Naeem wrongly disparages the judge as a brother of Capt (r) Mansur Zaidi, supposedly ordered court-martialled on Musharraf’s orders.
Known as an upright person, Zaidi has a good reputation as a judge. Nusrat Naeem should have been court-martialled for his wife ordering an ISI detachment under her husband’s command to manhandle Pakistan Army’s most decorated soldier, Brig (r) Mohammad Taj, SJ & Bar. Having had to personally apologise to Brig Taj, Musharraf’s problems today originate from a whole lot of people like Nusrat Naeem.
Musharraf was delusional in expecting the streets to rise in protest, showing his naivete in politics. Unfortunately, he excels in choosing his allies and advisers very badly. Benefitting from Musharraf’s largesse and benevolence, many deserted him in the countdown to his forced resignation in 2008. One cannot doubt that Musharraf is a patriot but patronising western liberal secularism in the name of ‘enlightened moderation’, Musharraf created extremism that polarised the society and helped sustain murderous strife. Islamic values and faith took a serious hit during his period.
One would not wish the humiliation that Pervez Musharraf is going through even on one’s enemy, let alone someone who was the army chief. He seldom reacted badly to criticism, unless it was for Kargil or if it were personal. He was smart enough to realise that if those who criticised him also praised him on doing something right, it became credible. Objectivity in journalism means praise has to be tempered with criticism, not praise for praise’s sake, nor criticism for criticism’s sake, both on an ‘as required’ basis. Unfortunately, that essence of objectivity in the print or electronic media never pleases anybody.
Musharraf’s hasty departure on extremely bad legal advice from the premises of the Islamabad High Court (IHC) was played up by the media. This also complicated matters and eroded his stature in public perception. Musharraf needs better legal counsel about the due process of the law.
On his part, Musharraf has a duty to the country and to the army he once commanded to face his present adversity with grace. Remember the saying in Ingall Hall in the Pakistan Military Academy (PMA), “it is not what happens to you that matters but how you behave while it is happening”.
The writer is a defence and political analyst. Email:
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