Deeper Into The Quagmire – Moeed Yusuf

FORMER President Pervez Musharraf now faces high treason charges. It has been quite a journey for the military man. Many thought he would never come back to Pakistan.
Even more questioned the wisdom of his decision to return.
The usual conspiracy theories did the rounds: he has foreign guarantees; the military must have winked; there must be a secret deal with the politicos, etc. This sense was strengthened as one heard that Musharraf was adamant on staying in Pakistan. Even when the courts started ridiculing him, most continued to believe that there was more to it than met the eye. And so they do today. The conventional wisdom remains that treason charges against him won`t be taken to their logical conclusion. After all, Musharraf is a former army chief and there is no tradition of senior faujis being docked.
The military can`t possibly let Musharraf down, can it? Sooner or later it will act, no? What about the many international capitals where Musharraf is still remembered nostalgically? Surely, the government can`t ignore this? And on and on as far as reasons why this can`t happen go.
History certainly suggests we are not about to see a former army chief down and out. But the equation may not be as simple this time. There is a lot working against Musharraf.
For one, the government`s intent is clear. The civilian leadership couldn`t have been oblivious to the sensitivities its decision to press charges under Article 6 would entail. They have obviously chosen to give this a shot irrespective of the consequences.
Why? The effect on the civil-military dynamic would have been one factor. Theinvincibility of military chiefs in Pakistan has held to date. What can be a more powerful message than making an example out of a coup maker? From Peru to Spain to Turkey, doing the unthinkable by taking on military leaders on comparable charges hasworked. It has often left a permanent scar on the militaries and affected how future leaders of the armed forces behave.
Ah, and not to forget, Turkey is no ordinary example. It is the flavour of the month on the minds of our leadership as the model to emulate. So why not take a leaf out of the Justice and Development Party`s book and go for exemplary punishments against military leaders who have transgressed the law? It had never happened before in Turkey either; they did it; and it delivered.
Perhaps equally if not more important is the personal angle. It is all well to say that leaders should rise above personal grudges and vendettas but it is never easy when the animosity is so deep. There has never been any indication that the prime minister has gotten over what happened on Oct 12, 1999 perhaps most of us wouldn`t if we were in his shoes.
Then there is Musharraf`s attitude at the time of Mian Sharif`s death; efforts to break the bond between the Sharif brothers by enticing the younger Sharif to join hisgovernment; break-up of the PML, and much more. These factors had to have been part of the prime minister`s drive to press treason charges.
Corollary: he won`t be inclined to back down.
The military also does not appear to be behind Musharraf. It is, at best, torn on the issue. The party line is that the charges are against the person of Gen Musharraf, not the institution of the army. And thus, this doesn`t involve them.
Far from it, the reality is that the symbolism of a former chief going down in this manner affects the military deeply. But the right-wing sentiment in the institution is against Musharraf for having `sold out` to the US.
There are others who feel he gave the military a bad name by politicising it; they don`t necessarily want him to be put on the mat but see no reason why their institution should be sucked into this.
And then there is the army leadership that had strongly advised Musharraf against returning to Pakistan. They can`t ignore what is happening but can`t see an easy way out for their former boss either.
None of this, however, matters as much as the key reason Musharraf may not find the backing he desperately needs: none of the serving officers apart from some in the top brass appear to have a personal bond with him.
The military may be disciplined and have its red lines, but personal connections matter a great deal just like they do anywhere else. Ten years of Musharraf and six of Kayani following him and you have ended up with one, two, and even three stars in the army who owe little to Musharraf personally.
Third, the judiciary`s view of Musharraf is no hidden secret. Yes, the chief justice is on his way out and that may make the interaction between him and the courts less emotive. But the bottom lineremains: Musharraf is a hated commodity among the legal fraternity.
And finally, about the `foreign hand` that is to save Musharraf. Yes, Pakistan`s history is filled with externally brokered deals and it can`t be ruled out this time either.
Here is the problem though: the game has gone too far for anyone to believe that whatever deal Musharraf got before returning to Pakistan is still intact. It is almost impossible for a foreign power to manipulate judicial outcomes in the current context.
As for external pressure on the government, if there was any, the government has defied it to move the court. It would look horrible letting Musharraf go under a shady arrangement now.
So where are we headed? Into a serious legal battle.
And it is the legal ambiguities and lacunas where Musharraf`s team needs to focus.
This is his best bet. The stars are otherwise aligned fairly neatly against him.