Burning in The Line of Fire: The Musharraf Case

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It’s a sad time when a soldier, a highly celebrated General and a respected leader, is placed on trial. A man you saved the country from ruin has now been handed a death sentence for high treason.

This week a special court convicted General Pervez Musharraf of high treason under article 6 of Pakistan’s constitution. He was found guilty of suspending the constitution in November 2007 by declaring a state of emergency. However, there is still hope, and the General can appeal the verdict in the Supreme Court.

The former President is currently living in Dubai. So it’s highly unlikely that the sentence will be carried out, even if the Supreme Court doesn’t change it. The fact is that this verdict is unprecedented, and the ruling is unprecedented against a former army chief and is a massive blow to the all-powerful Pakistan Army. This decision has caused a widespread political and legal storm.

This verdict is the end of a trial running for about six years now. He was booked for high treason in December of 2013. The case was proposed by Nawaz Sharif as soon as he came into power, some have called the case vengeance.

Pervez Musharraf and Nawaz Sharif have a somewhat intertwined history. Musharraf was chosen by Sharif to become the Chief of the Army Staff. Still, later in 1999, Musharraf dissolved the parliament and declared himself President after a coup. The former President did hold an election in 2002 after he had disqualified Sharif and Benazir Bhutto from running for office.

Pakistan Muslim League-Q, which was created by defectors of Sharif’s party, dominated the parliament. Hence, Musharraf’s claim to power was further encouraged.

About five years later, in 2007, the Musharraf rule started to dwindle after he clashed with the judiciary of the country. In the same year, he removed the Chief Justice, and this led to widespread protests by lawyers. Then he went ahead and suspended the constitution in November and declared a state of emergency while placing many senior judges under house arrest.

However, he did restore the constitution at the end of the year. The government of Sharif brought forward charges of high treason against him for imposing emergency in 2007.

During the six-year saga, Musharraf failed to make an appearance at court multiple times, six reconstitutions of the special court, postponement of the hearing date due to his illnesses, and numerous prosecution heads being fired by the government or quitting. Musharraf was placed on the no-fly list. Then he only receives one-time permission to travel abroad to seek medical treatment, and he has not come back since.

At the beginning of this year, the Supreme Court gave an order to the special court that it could proceed without any statements by Musharraf as he has failed to appear in court.

Later Khan’s government tried to delay the verdict. Still, the court finally issues an initial verdict on December 17, with the detailed verdict released on December 19. The verdict was two to one, with two judges in favor of the verdict while the other two against.

It is highly unlikely that the sentence against the Former President will be carried out as he will not be returning to Pakistan anytime soon. Still, the verdict itself is a decision against a former army chief, which is a recipe for disaster in-country rules by the military. The decision has been seen against the highly respectable institution itself. Many have stated that they are in pain and anguish over the verdict, and many are shocked at the fact that a man who has served the country for 40 years is now considered a traitor to his nation. The military has heavily protested against the trial and has stated that the trial was concluded in haste and is not at all just.

The current Prime Minister Imran Khan’s government is running on military support. In 2007, when Musharraf declared emergency, Khan, who was then starting his political career, had argued against the Former Chief of Army Staff, stating that Musharraf had indeed committed treason by subverting the constitution. But now Khan will stand by the military as they are the ones who brought him into power and have the ability to end his reign too. And another thing, a lot of Musharraf loyalists are a significant part of his cabinet; these are just some of the reasons that explain why the current government wanted to delay the verdict and why the attorney general declared the initial verdict as unfair as well as void, as the entire trial and the verdict was conducted in the absence of Pervez Musharraf.

The attorney general has further stated that the Khan government will defend Musharraf when the case moves to its appeal in the Supreme Court.

He has also claimed that the government will do its best to approach the Supreme Judicial Council and get Judge Seth removed, who wrote the highly controversial paragraph about hanging Musharraf in Islamabad’s public square.

All this makes one fact apparent that Khan’s government will most probably not force Musharraf to come back to Pakistan from Dubai if the worst happens, and Musharraf is condemned by the Supreme Court as well.
In a video message that Musharraf made from his hospital bed, he stated that he respects the judiciary greatly, but that the court did not give him a fair trial. He said that the only reason this case was pursued in the first place was that some people have a personal vendetta against him.

However, the court itself rejects the Former President’s claim that he was not given a fair trial; they state that he was given every opportunity to stand in court and defend himself, but he bluntly refused to present evidence or even testimony.

The court further claims that by declaring a state of emergency, Musharraf gave himself enormous powers and became a dictator in a democratic country that values democracy

Fizzah Temur
Fizzah Temur