The former President of Pakistan, General (Retd.) Parvez Musharraf is once again in the limelight of international media. It is said he is one of the most popular leaders of Pakistan globally. On the other side, the internal opposition which Musharraf had to face in the last days of his office is also unmatched.
It can be said that though he faced criticism and opposition, Musharraf was equally popular as well. His style of conversation, the art of giving to-the-point replies, sense of humour and administrative capability, were behind his popularity.
In India’s view, Musharraf is a culprit of war crimes. But, the way in which he took strong measures against terrorists in Pakistan (specially in the last days in office), which culminated in the Operation Sunrise (the siege of Lal Masjid), helped change the image of Musharraf in India from a war criminal to a strong leader fighting against terrorism.
Anyway, Mr. Musharraf has been in London for the past three months. Last week, the District and Session Judge of Islamabad, Justice Abdul Vakil Khan directed Islamabad police to file a case against Musharraf. He is charged with detaining Supreme Court judges during the Emergency in 2007. This is being conceived as illegal.
It is well known that the judges detained by Musharraf regime were the same who refused to take work in the new constitutional arrangement. Consequently, Musharraf suspended 60 Supreme Court judges along with the Chief Justice of Pakistan, Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Choudhary. It can be said that this step became the raison d’ etre for Musharraf’s resignation, though he was doing all this to remain in office.
He constituted a new judiciary by terminating the Constitution, became President from military ruler, imposed emergency. But the suspended judiciary got huge support from the people. Finally, after international intervention, Musharraf prepared to conduct general elections. In elections, the parties with his support were scrubbed badly, while the two main political parties, Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) and Pakistan People’s Party jointly formed the government.
Musharraf, an expert army ruler, was probably aware of the forthcoming situation. So, he installed his loyal General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani as the new army chief. Even after the elections, he was not ready to leave the office of President. But the majority of the members of the newly elected National Assembly didn’t want to see him as President. The speculation of impeachment against him, came alive. At last, Musharraf resigned voluntarily, thus evading impeachment.
There is a provision of imprisonment for three years in the case filed against Musharraf for illegal detention of judges. A large segment of anti-Musharraf people including the PML(N) of Nawaz Sharif is of the view that this action against Musharraf is too little and too late.
It believes that Musharraf should be booked under the law of anti-national activities, for illegally imposing emergency. It means, such a case that should hang Musharraf. Litigation was also filed in the Supreme Court in this context, which was rejected by the 14-member bench Justice Iftikhar Choudhary by saying that such a case can’t be filed by the Supreme Court. It is the work of the Parliament.
Knowing about the developments against him in Pakistan, he is currently staying in Britain and is not in a mood to return to Pakistan. Britain is also ready to provide him exile. Besides, high level secret talks are on between the British government and the Pakistan government. Britain is trying to convince the Pak government, not to initiate revengeful proceedings against Musharraf.
The special British envoy, Sir Mark Loyal Grant has met the President Asif Ali Zardari and the PML leader Nawaz Sharif in this context. It is expected that the mediation attempts by the British government would succeed and the actions against Musharraf be stopped. It is worth remembering that after similar attempts by Britain, Musharraf agreed to conduct elections. Nawaz Sharif and Benazir Bhutto were able to return to Pakistan and by similar British attempts, Zardari was acquitted of the corruption cases against him. Mark Loyal Grant is the same envoy, who got Musharraf to agree to proper treatment of Nawaz Sharif, Benazir Bhutto and Asif Ali Zardari.
The question is if the British mediators don’t succeed in their objective, will the Pakistani government be able to arrest Musharraf? Perhaps never, because Pakistan has no legal framework under which it can arrest Musharraf from Britain. And in the case of talks failing, the traditional show of muscle power by many former generals including General Kayani, who are supporters of Musharraf, can’t be overlooked.
Amidst the possibilities of such political instability in Pakistan, if any legal proceeding is initiated against Musharraf, then it can adversely affect the offensive of the Pakistani army against the Taliban. Anti-Musharraf extremist powers active in Pakistan would be encouraged by such proceedings. It is for the Pakistan government to decide whether to act against Musharraf with revenge or in view of the possible political instability and honouring the British mediation, let Musharraf live a peaceful life.