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Musharraf Should be Pardoned

23 November, 2013

By Saeed Qureshi


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In my humble opinion former president of Pakistan Gen Perzvez Musharraf should be pardoned and allowed to go abroad and live in exile. By pardoning him, prime minister Mian Nawaz and his party would heighten their political stature. Is not Mian Sahib and many other thousands of individuals benefited from the NRO and thus managed to renter Pakistan, contest election and get power again? Was NRO not a blessing in disguise for Mian Sahib as for many others involved in serious cases? A wrong done by Musharraf to Mian Sahib was hugely compensated through NRO.   That should be enough justification to pacify Mian Sahib and other beneficiaries. Let bygone be bygone!

The PMLN is frantically seized with the trial of Musharraf for obvious reasons. The most conspicuous reason is that he seized power from prime minister Mian Nawaz Sharif though as a result of sudden unforeseen developments on 13 October 1999. Let us not forget that it was not a traditional military coup as was enacted by Gen Ziual Haq against ZA Bhutto and Iskander Mirza against a political government in 1958.

Musharraf's ascension to the power as the chief executive of Pakistan on 12 October 1999 came on the spur of the moment and it was more engineered and facilitated by his nemesis Mian Nawaz Sharif who wanted to replace him with Gen. ISI Director-General, Lt Gen Ziauddin Butt, a loyalist of Nawaz Sharif. But this attempt this time backfired. Previously Sharif had removed Gen Jahangir Karamat, besides having tense relations with Gen Asif Nawaz and Gen Abdul Waheed Kakar.

He was the chief executive until 21 November 2002.  He His amended the constitution and became president of Pakistan: a position that he held from 20 June 2001 to 18 August 2008. Had not Nawaz Sharif clumsily tried to remove Pervez Musharraf, both would have retired gracefully on the expiry of their respective terms in office. So the blame of change of guards or praetorians at the highest level must be apportioned more to Mian Sahib than his then subordinate army chief Musharraf.

But then Musharraf behaved gracefully by letting Nawaz Sharif go out of Pakistan at the behest of certain undertakers whose intercession could not be ignored by Musharraf. Otherwise Main Sahib could have gone the way Zulfikar Ali Bhutto went at the hands of General Ziual Haq, a steeled and fanatic despot.

Musharraf's tenure was not as horrific and stifling as that of Zia or Ayub Khan. Certainly the trappings of power irresistibly impel one to continue with the galore of glory that one basks in and the empowerment one wields as the occupant of the highest office in a country. That is human and that is what Musharraf did by Imposing state of emergency first on October 15, 1999 after replacing Nawaz Sharif on October 13, 1999. The military government of Musharraf indicted Nawaz Sharif against charges of hijacking, kidnapping, attempted murder, and treason for preventing Musharraf's flight from landing at Karachi airport on the day of the coup. Sharif signed an agreement with Musharraf and he along with his family was exiled to Saudi Arabia in December 2000.

Musharraf was the first military president to accept the rulings of the Supreme Court and holding free and fair In October 2002 that were won by his supportive party PML-Q. Thus Musharraf legitimized his presidency. The formation of the government with Zafarullah Jamali as the Prime minister, Gen Musharraf managed to pass the XVII amendment which grants powers to dissolve the parliament albeit with the approval of the Supreme Court.

But what became the fundamental catalyst for his decline and resignation was his declaration emergency rule across Pakistan on 3 November 2007.  He suspended the Constitution, imposed State of Emergency, and fired the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court again. He was left with no option but resign on October 18, 2008 when the countrywide rallies and marches were held by the lawyers supported by political parties and human right activists.

The decision to resign was taken by Musharraf because a charge sheet drafted both by PPP and PML-N was being sent to the parliament for his impeachment. Now Musharraf has been granted bail in other charges including the Lal Masjid bloody episode, the murder of Benazir Bhutto and Akbar Bugti.

The Pakistan Attorney general Munir A Malik told the reporters that The punishment for Pakistan's former military ruler Pervez Musharraf can either be death penalty or life imprisonment as there was strong evidence against him in the treason case. A three-judge panel has been constituted for Musharraf's trial for high treason under article 6 of the constitution and according to Malik "It could be decided swiftly”.

According to Article 6 of the constitution, any person who abrogates or subverts or suspends or holds in abeyance, or attempts or conspires to abrogate or subvert or suspend or hold in abeyance, the constitution by use of force or show of force or by any other unconstitutional means shall be guilty of high treason”.

It appears that the dye is cast against Musharraf for a trial which by all indications cannot result in favor of Musharraf. It is highly improbable that the army could intervene and force the incumbent government to spare Musharraf's life in case of death penalty. However it might also depend upon the new army chief whose appointment is already due.

Musharraf ought to get a reprieve, a release or lenient punishment for the following factors:

He did not jump an intentional coup on October 12, 1999. This episode cannot be termed as a deliberate effort by Musharraf as he was suspended in the air.

Secondly he stood by his promise of holing free and fair elections in October 2002 in the light of Supreme Court ruling. He did not impose another emergency rule after the protest rallies and resigned on 18 August 2008. He came back to Pakistan with a clear conscience as the leader of a political party which means he somehow preferred democracy.

A host of good accomplishments can be attributed to Musharraf's 9 years long rule one of which to liberalize the society. For the first time in the history of Pakistan, Pervez Musharraf prominently brought the liberal forces at the national level and in limelight.  He averted the backlash from the United States by joining the war on terrorism that saved Pakistan from being declared a pariah state, imposition of sanctions and stifling of economy.

If the trial is fair and judges are not predisposed against Musharraf then the following questions can come up during the trial which might involve Mian Nawaz Sharif and his many cohorts and several other top notches that many an analysts have termed as opening a Pandora box.

First is the dubious and spooky style adopted by then prime minister to remove Musharraf from the COAS office? The order of diverting the aircraft carrying Musharraf to India also carried grave implications for the passengers due to meager fuel left in the plane.

Was it alone Musharraf to carry out the so called unintentional and impromptu coup or other army generals were also involved n it? Why are they are being included in the coup charge. As a matter of fact, it was not Musharraf but the generals on the ground who saved the situation for Musharraf and by quick decisions reversed the whole drama. In that eventuality would the court summon the then high ranking army cohorts of Musharraf? Would it not send a wave of panic among the army high command?

Can also the question of NRO be mooted during the proceedings? NRO is huge bombshell that could be mentioned by defense or prosecution lawyers. Would the court have enough moral courage and integrity to also tag the NRO plethora with the treason case? So that it should be laid bare that there were other dimensions related to Musharraf that need to be adjudicated and dispensed with.

Finally why not prosecute Musharraf also for another sin in the garb of NRO to save his power as is being done with regard to the suspension of constitution and declaration of state of emergency? That is not being done because it could impinge upon the beneficiaries of that dubious ordinance.

In the same vein can the abrogation of the constitution by an erstwhile dictator General Ziual Haq that was more serious ad sinister be brought into the vortex of debate and argumentation? Currently it looks as if Mian Sahib and PMLN are initiating the treason case against Musharraf as an act of vendetta and not for the sake of justice or democracy?



The writer is a senior journalist, former editor of Diplomatic Times and a former diplomat.

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