Once again, former military dictator General Pervez Musharraf has shown his penchant for shooting from the lip. In an interview with a television channel, Musharraf claimed that the Nawaz Sharif government had been pressurising the courts in the cases against him and recently retired CoAS General Raheel Sharif came to his rescue.
According to Musharraf, General Raheel played a role in having this alleged pressure relieved from behind the scenes. Once that happened, the courts allowed him to go abroad for medical treatment. In the same interview, Musharraf also claimed that his differences with Nawaz Sharif started because the prime minister wanted him to fire two major generals, which he refused to do. In response, the government, adopting discretion as the better part of valour, issued a mealy-mouthed statement rejecting the major generals charge, while remaining enigmatically silent on the issue of General Raheel Sharif.
The government was obviously caught in an unenviable position on the second issue, as it risked being damned if it did and damned if it didn’t. It was left to Minister for States and Frontier Regions Lieutenant General Abdul Qadir Baloch (retired) on another television programme to render a ‘half-confession’ by confining himself to regretting Musharraf’s indiscretion regarding the former CoAS without clearly refuting the charge of intervention in the judicial process. Legal and other circles have expressed their outrage at Musharraf’s maligning the institutions of the judiciary, army, and the latter’s recently retired CoAS.
They have demanded the Supreme Court take suo motu notice of a statement that amounts to contempt of the judiciary as an institution.
Musharraf has been basking in the glow of his escape and freedom abroad. Despite commitments to the courts that he would return to face all the cases against him after his treatment, there is no sign he will make the same mistake again of returning to the country when treason and murder cases dangle over his head. As to the reasons for his falling out with Nawaz Sharif, who does not know the real reason? It was the ill thought through, badly planned and generaled ‘secret’ adventure in Kargil that queered the pitch between the two.
Nawaz Sharif was busy mending fences with the then Indian prime minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee, while Musharraf in his megalomania was not only sabotaging that historic effort through the Kargil war, but dreaming of subjugating India in Indian Held Kashmir by cutting off the Indian army’s supply lines in the disputed state. We also know how that adventure ended in a debacle, visiting nothing but ignominy on Pakistan. It should not be forgotten that the Kargil misadventure came just one year after both India (again) and Pakistan (for the first time) had tested nuclear bombs. The risk of the Kargil conflict escalating into a full-fledged war, with its concomitant nuclear weapons danger, was only avoided by international pressure.
Musharraf clearly had no concern for the danger he potentially was pushing the country towards. Could there be a more irresponsible act by a CoAS? Having said that, and with the greatest respect to the judiciary as an institution, Musharraf’s allegations may find resonance with those who have not forgotten the chequered history of the judiciary’s role in our past. When Musharraf sent 52 superior courts judges home because they refused to accept the PCO, some did accept the PCO many others stepped up to fill the void and served the dictator faithfully till the whole jingbang lot was dumped.
That was only the last amongst the ‘sins’ of the judiciary in upholding military coups and extending legitimacy to military usurpers in our past. Hopefully those sordid days are behind us. A rejuvenated, independent judiciary that adheres to the constitution is one of the best guarantees against the man on horseback in future.
Meanwhile, the authorities should find ways and means to compel Musharraf to return and face the music.