Pakistani politics have long been plagued by the need to control the powerful Pakistan Army and the ISI. This need for control has resulted in numerous late night trips during the 1990s to the Army’s General Headquarters (GHQ) by opposition politicians to assist in the removal of the government of the day. Today, that need to control has taken a dramatic and dangerous turn with the initiation of a number of criminal trials in the Pakistani courts against retired Army officials. The most public and aggressively discussed is the treason trial of former Chief of Army Staff Pervaiz Musharraf, initiated by the courts and government working in solidarity to “teach the Army a lesson.”
This trial is nothing more than a show-trial for a government that has been in trouble since the day they took office, promising the world to Pakistanis prior to the elections, only to renege of the promises hours after being declared the winners. Interestingly, the former Chief of Army Staff and President of Pakistan is also facing murder charges for the death of Benazir Bhutto, Nawab Akbar Bugti and the chief terrorist of the Red Mosque, Abdur Ghazi Rashid.
The second trial in the Pakistani courts that has the Army in the dock is the Asghar Khan case, where the Pakistan Army is accused of distributing funds to various politicians, including the current Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, to help them defeat Benazir Bhutto in elections during the 1990s. In this case, the former Chief of Army Staff, Mirza Aslam Beg, and former head of the ISI, Asad Durrani, are the named defendants.
Both of these trials are nothing more than showpieces for a government that has taken great benefit from the Army when they needed to and tried to emasculate it when they were in power. It is no hidden fact that Shahbaz Sharif, 4-term Chief Minister of Punjab, made many visits to the GHQ during the last government to prod the Army into action to remove the corrupt PPP government from power.
When we look at the cases against Musharraf with a honest, unbiased eye, we find that the acts of November 3, 2007 would not have been possible without the preceding action of the military coup on October 12, 1999. But the government and the judiciary will not touch that case because every judge on the bench today along with many serving and retired Army officers would be found guilty of treason, including the falsely praised former Chief Justice of Pakistan, Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, who gave Chief of Army Staff Musharraf carte blanche to amend the Constitution as he saw fit. It is also a requirement to note that the clause of the Constitution that former President Musharraf is being charged with treason under was amendment during the last government to include a phrase that would implicate Musharraf for treason, if the government ever decided to pursue those charges.
It is also interesting that the government and judiciary have chosen not to include all the people that were party to the decision and implementation of the November 3, 2007 emergency declaration, singling out Musharraf alone as the culprit. It should be noted, for my readers, that on November 3, 2007, there was a democratically elected Prime Minister, National Assembly, and four Provincial Assemblies in session. All of which ratifying the emergency declaration from the office of the President and the actions taken by the Pakistan Army.
Now, I am not a legal expert, but my three years of studying the law in university taught me that someone cannot be charged for a crime that was not a crime at the time of commission. The second thing that I do understand is that under most Constitutions, including Pakistan’s, the President of the country has blanket immunity for any acts taken in the interest of the country. President Musharraf was the sitting, elected President of Pakistan at the time of all these “crimes” being committed, thus the immunity clause would apply.
It is also interesting to note that during the last six years of democratic government and judicial activism in Pakistan, not one terrorist who has been arrested by the Army, intelligence services or police has been convicted of terrorism by these same courts. The Red Mosque Brigade who held Islamabad hostage for six months were all declared innocent of their crimes, and President Musharraf was charged with murder for the death of a group of terrorists.
Another interesting fact is that Hussain Haqqani, Pakistan’s former Ambassador to the United States, also committed treason during the last six years, as deemed by a judicial commission, but has run away and taken refuge in the United States claiming threats to his life if he returns to Pakistan, but the judiciary and government have shown no interest in bringing him to justice, nor the media taking up a vilification campaign against him for the crimes committed against the state. For those who would like the details of the case, search Memogate on Google.
In the end, this trial, if ever started, will bring an end to democracy in Pakistan forever. The judiciary and the government don’t the have public support to stand against a military coup because of their own failed economic policies. The people of Pakistan are already starting to rumble, the Army stands waiting to see what the courts are going to do, but this will not end well for the nation if the courts decide to repeat the judicial murder of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto with the judicial murder of the Pakistan Army and it’s officers.
Westerners like to equate Pakistan with a Banana Republic, but when there are monkeys running the houses, it’s only bananas that people will see.