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Editorial | Govt’s Petition To Halt Musharraf Treason Verdict Tarnishes Its Democratic Credentials

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The apple of the PTI government never disappoints. Again and again, with embarrassing consistency, it falls close to the tree that bore it. The most recent instance came today, as the Interior Ministry filed a petition in the Islamabad High Court, asking that it set aside a court decision to reserve its judgment in the high treason case against former strongman General (retd) Pervez Musharraf.

The government’s position in this matter is yet another blow to its own moral standing. After all, the ruling party may have forgotten but some others remember that PTI activists had been part of the movement to oust General Musharraf, during and after the 2007 Lawyers’ Movement.

But even more importantly, the government’s stance on the Musharraf case pours salt in a number of recent wounds in Pakistan’s body politic.

For one, consider the unseemly sight of a ruling party citing “defective application of procedure” by courts – in defence of a former dictator. This, even as the PTI continues to sneer when its critics make a procedural argument for various opposition leaders – especially former PM Nawaz Sharif, who was ousted by the courts.

Second, the specific grounds on which the government sees flaws in the proceedings against Musharraf. Not only does the Interior Ministry’s petition fly in the face of earlier positions by PTI leaders, it also calls into question issues that have long been settled by Pakistani courts.

The government now maintains that the proceedings are defective because “those who had aided and abetted in the crime were not included in the trial”. This argument is commonly brought up by apologists for Gen Musharraf, who is considered a “fugitive” by no less an authority than the Supreme Court of Pakistan. It obfuscates the very notion of accountability for those in power, by opening a bad-faith philosophical debate on how to define “aiding and abetting” a crime – especially one as vast as standing in violation of Article 6 of Pakistan’s Constitution. Even more importantly, this issue has been settled by the special court long ago. In fact, a November 2014 order by the special court had the following to say about this matter:

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“The accused seeks some 600 persons to be summoned and to face trial jointly with him, which amounts to causing injustice and unnecessary delay in completion of the trial.”

The ruling party’s position today lends credence to the claims of its most harsh critics that the current administration amounts to little more than a repackaging of Gen Musharraf’s ruling team. Such criticism is further strengthened by the fact that the current Interior Minister is known to have been a spymaster and loyalist for Gen Musharraf’s regime.

Above all, it tarnishes the democratic credentials of the ruling party yet more – at a time when a lack of legitimacy has very real consequences for Pakistan’s stability, economy and long-term security.

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