Treason Trial

Given the multiple crises that the government is challenged with, on both domestic and external fronts and the desperate need to address them, Mian Nawaz Sharif’s decision to prosecute Musharraf for treason may reinforce the perception of a revenge motive.
“For the first time in Pakistan’s history military rule is being questioned,” says Senator Aitzaz Ahsan. “All the pretexts and excuses have been given, it is going to lead to a clash of institutions and will harm democracy.”
Senior lawyer SM Zafar agrees, “This case will open a Pandora’s box. Musharraf’s collaborators will (also) be tried under Article 6 of the Constitution. Several high-ranking officials could possibly be Musharraf’s collaborators in this unconstitutional act.”
Constitutional expert Babar Sattar agrees that the high treason case may be expanded, “Those who aided and abetted the former military dictator for subverting and violating the constitution are guilty of high treason and they will be brought to justice”.
Nawaz has reportedly discussed the Musharraf issue with COAS General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani. Other than merit, Kayani owed his elevation from one star to selection as COAS and four-star rank wholly and solely to Musharraf. By inference the army seems now to have tacitly accepted the government’s prerogative to go ahead with Musharraf’s trial.
Appearing before the SC, the Attorney General of Pakistan Munir A Malik said that the government would proceed in accordance with the law and also take political forces into confidence through a consultative process – the government requiring a 30-day period to prepare a detailed mechanism, including who will investigate, prosecute and named as abettors in the treason case.
What are Musharraf’s possible legal responses? He has defended his November 3 action in several interviews, his close aides claiming that not only is Musharraf ready to face the trial but will make a few disclosures which are likely to embarrass several political leaders, civil bureaucrats and even ex-intelligence officials.
Boxed into a corner, he wants to take all those who enjoyed the benefits of his arbitrary rule down with him.
To quote my article, ‘Anything is Possible’ (March 21, 2013), “One is seriously concerned Musharraf will become a victim of ‘kangaroo justice’ even before going on trial. A hot potato for the caretaker government, he will be an acute embarrassment for the Pakistan Army.
“Notwithstanding reservations among the rank and file about Musharraf’s failure to address their welfare in contrast to those of superior military rank, his promoting favourites and meticulously superseding those with combat experience, he was their chief. He cannot be treated like a common criminal.
“One complicating factor, Kayani was Musharraf’s DG ISI, his trusted point-man in the negotiating and drafting of the obnoxious NRO. Inconvenient truths emerging from the woodworks are a possible ‘Sword of Damocles’.
“If the much-vilified Asif Ali Zardari can become president and, refusing to adhere to numerous Supreme Court judgements or declare his assets, complete almost his full term in office, in contrast Musharraf smells roses. Anything is possible in Pakistan!”
One thing a trial will certainly do – it will revive Musharraf’s popularity as nothing else can.
Speaking in the National Assembly, Mian Nawaz Sharif said that as PM it was implicit in his oath “to protect, preserve and defend the constitution” and ensure those guilty of acts under Article 6 of the constitution are brought to justice.
“Musharraf will have to answer for his guilt before the court, my government is committed to following the high standards of rule of law, to ensure that further steps required to be taken by it are not blurred under the cloud of ‘victor’s justice’.”
But the people are presently more interested in getting electricity, gas and water than being frustrated by soap operas like the NRO and the Swiss case.
One is heartened by Mian Nawaz Sharif vehemently emphasising “rule of law”. In an earlier stint as PM he seemed to have forgotten rule of law completely when the Supreme Court of Pakistan building was attacked by an unruly mob that broke through the restraining police cordon, chanting slogans and epithets against the then chief justice and almost reached the door of the courtroom where he was presiding over a contempt of case hearing against PM Mian Nawaz Sharif. Entering court premises in such violent fashion was almost unheard of and violated the sanctity of the court.
In an article I wrote at that time I had said that the display of crude street power was an abomination that smacked of Nazism in the 30s, it was totally out of line and shameful.
“Mian Sahib normally is a soft-spoken person not given to violence but there is an element among his close aides that supports a vocally militant faction of the PML in trying to rule over the majority. The country has been degraded by this shameful act. Even I must take the blame, being in the forefront of believing in Mian Nawaz Sharif’s promise”, I had written.
For the record, Gen Musharraf and his close aides, Lt-Gens Mahmood, then Comd 10 Corps, Muzzafar Usmani, then Comd 5 Corps and the then CGS Aziz, were directly involved in the Oct 12, 1999 takeover. Earlier they had sent soldiers to their death unnecessarily in Kargil.
Others simply obeyed orders without question even though these were commands which could have been refused. As soldiers these four gentlemen need to appear before a court of law to justify their actions.
Why not convene a General Court Martial and deal with this issue separately so that civil-military relations are not put to test? Why is the PM hell-bent on opening another front, particularly now?