Thursday October 06, 2022

Senate divided over facilitating Musharraf’s return to Pakistan

June 16, 2022

ISLAMABAD: A sharp division was witnessed in the Senate on Wednesday over the possibility of return of former military ruler (retd) General Pervez Musharraf, who is reportedly seriously ill, and the kind of treatment to be accorded to him.

An informal discussion took place before and after the members spoke on the budget, following a day when PMLN supremo Nawaz Sharif urged the coalition government, led by his younger brother Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, to facilitate the return of ailing Musharraf to Pakistan following comments over the matter by the military spokesman.

Jamaat-e-Islami Senator Mushtaq Ahmad Khan drew the attention of the House about Nawaz Sharif’s message, recalling that the Constitution of Pakistan had been a victim to several injustices. He also bemoaned the helplessness of politicians and remarked: “We are handicapped and our hands and feet have been tied. We are just slaves.”

The JI senator asserted that Musharraf was once the master of black and white for 10 years.Senator Mushtaq, who is from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, warned that if Musharraf was brought back to the country, then the doors of prisons should also be opened and courts should be closed because the judiciary won’t be needed afterwards.

However, ex-PM Yousuf Raza Gilani sounded very open and frank in his terse remarks, who asserted nobody could stop the ex-military ruler when he left the country and now nobody could stop him from coming back. “These decisions will not be taken by us. These will be taken somewhere else. When Musharraf was still in Pakistan, I had forgiven him.”

Former chairman Senate and PPP stalwart Senator Mian Raza Rabbani opposed a state funeral to any such person, as it would be exceedingly inappropriate thing to do. However, he agreed that Musharraf had committed several atrocities but if his health was not good and he wanted to return to the country, there was no problem.

Rabbani continued that he could not talk on behalf of his party, but insisted: “Things are very different when a person has been convicted by a court under Article 6 of the Constitution (high treason). It would be very inappropriate to give a state funeral to such a person.” Criticising Nawaz Sharif, PTI Senator Ejaz Chaudhry contended that the law should take its course, saying that anybody who had proceeded abroad for medical treatment should come back and face the cases, and emphasised the country cannot make progress unless the law was equally applicable to all.

PMLN Senator Irfan Siddiqui, who had been Nawaz Sharif’s speechwriter, said the remarks made by Nawaz Sharif must not be misconstrued as support for dictatorship, rather these should be seen carefully. He further said: “If not Pakistan, where else will Musharraf go and if a man is on his death bed, would he not even be allowed to return to his homeland?”

JUIF leader Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Haideri noted that Musharraf was fighting for his life at the moment and it wouldn’t be fair to stop him from returning to Pakistan. "Even Nawaz Sharif left the country for medical treatment.” Senator Kamran Murtaza of the JUIF said that a citizen cannot be stopped from returning to his country, but the sentence awarded to him would remain intact. He added that an atmosphere was being created to give a state funeral to him and cautioned that if this would be done, it would be tantamount to “rubbing salt on our wounds.”

He pointed out that Musharraf was responsible for the present situation in Balochistan and that if he was given protocol, then “we will not tolerate it. It is a national issue and no one can be allowed to do this.”

Minister of State for Law and Justice Senator Shahadat Awan of the PPP made a careful statement in his personal capacity, saying that any Pakistani who is facing cases or is placed on the Exit Control List (ECL) has no bar on returning to the country. He said that the matter would be dealt as per law and the Constitution.