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Armed Forces Should Not Have Personalised Musharraf Treason Verdict

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Personalizing the Musharraf case will do more harm to the armed forces than good and ultimately to Pakistan. It will reinforce the idea that there are two classes in Pakistan, military and the civilians, writes Awais Babar.

I wrote in my previous article on Musharraf a few weeks ago that the decision in his case is being delayed until he dies so there is no logical end to it. Government’s reaction after the Special Court verdict has reinforced my analysis.

Being a lawyer, one thing that I am most certain about just before the announcement of a verdict is that one of the two parties is just about to get swept off its feet. The party which wins the case, with a broad smile on its face, applauds the court, the judge, the attorney and celebrates its success. Whereas the other party which loses is shattered into pieces; disgusted and filled with anguish, it goes around telling everyone how justice has not been done.

From there on, follow the assumptions, presumptions and ideas about what would have been the right decision. Therefore, quite understandably, justice is subjective to parties irrespective of the strength of their case; justice for them is winning. Justice itself on the other hand, requires no approval – it either is or is not.

For Pakistan Army and Musharraf sympathisers, justice means that even if General Pervez Musharraf abrogated the constitution, he should have been exonerated for the services he rendered.

“An ex-army chief, Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee (CJCSC) and President of Pakistan, who has served the country for over 40 years, fought wars for the defence of the country can surely never be a traitor,” stated ISPR.

This justification is emotional, but irrational. Any man who commits murder is not a murderer throughout his life; he may have a family, a business and may also have done a great deal of good to the society. If this man is convicted of murder, his family might be of the same view as that expressed by the armed forces. That he was a good man. (He can be anything but a murderer).

However, when the court is looking into a case it is not interested in your goodness nor does it have any problem with the sins you may have committed, all the court is interested in is to do what it is entrusted with – the issue before the court and the law.

The issue before the court was whether General Pervez Musharraf abrogated the constitution or not. If so, the next stage for the court was to see the punishment provided for the said offence in the law. There is strict liability with respect to Article 6 of the constitution of Pakistan which reads as under:

  1. High treason.—[(1)     Any person who abrogates or subverts or suspends or holds in abeyance, or attempts or conspires to abrogate or subvert or suspend or hold in abeyance, the Constitution by use of force or show of force or by any other unconstitutional means shall be guilty of high treason.]
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Meaning thereby that there is no justification whatsoever for subverting or overthrowing the constitution, because it is supreme. For the decision of special court to have been different, the law would have to be different too. This law has virtually tightened the judges’ hand and hence conviction is liable to be given. Furthermore, not to mention the amendment in Article 6 via 18th Amendment which seals the court’s options – doctrine of necessity abolished.

(2A) An act of high treason mentioned in clause (1) or clause (2) shall not be validated by any court including the Supreme Court and a High Court.

A more apposite factor which seems to have invited an emotional reaction from the institutions is the longstanding immunity from law the army personnel have been enjoying since the very beginning. The fear is that after December 17, the history might not repeat itself. Forces rebuff this accusation and claim that since they already have a justice system of their own, it would be wrong to suggest that they consider themselves above the law.

In order to substantiate this idea, they have been referring to those senior most army personnel who were court martialled recently and are behind bars now. I strongly refute this to be equivalent to be equal in the eyes of law; no Army on earth would bear spy officers in their ranks, they would meet the same fate as did those officers which Lt Gen Amjad Shoaib keeps citing as examples of the army’s commitment and adherence to law.

Therefore, punishing spy soldiers or officials is a norm and a deterrence every army on earth would inflict upon such foes.

The fact is that the institution of army does consider itself above the law. “The decision given by special court has been received with lot of pain and anguish by rank and file of Pakistan Armed Forces”, reads ISPR statement. This statement is self-explanatory and in effect, is saying, “How dare you?” Which other institution can issue such a statement in Pakistan?

As for the objection that General Musharraf was not heard and hence his trial was not fair, it would not be wrong to suggest that deep down everyone knows that Musharraf was given ample opportunities of being heard. Though he never took benefit of those opportunities because he never would have thought in the wildest of his dreams like the rest of us that the courts would even dare deciding his case.

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The same army men who are in pain and are anguished by the special court’s decision as well as the Supreme Court for safeguarding the proceedings have forgotten the days when they would not stop celebrating a statement, in private meetings and talk shows, quoted by Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Asif Saeed Khosa in Nawaz Sharif’s disqualification case, ‘behind every fortune there is a crime’.

They were not in anguish then. They were not worried then that their morale might fall drastically as their Prime Minister has been disqualified and that too in the most embarrassing of ways. The reason for such indifference is that our soldiers do not look up to the PM, they look to their chief. The PM for soldiers is a dummy who they know to be working under their Chief (whether selected or elected) and hence this thought makes them feel superior over all the civilians. A soldier’s devotion should be to me and you, the citizens of this country, this land, this green and white flag, not a man; his motivation should be unshakable because that is what a soldier is supposed to be.

Having said that, I am of the view that nobody really cares about General Musharraf no matter what words they choose to express their love. It is the symbolic implications of the verdict which will ultimately affect all those who seem unhappy today that is the real reason for their affliction. It is the worry of themselves that is worrying them the most. The pleasure of feeling different than others, superior to others and the psychological security of being invincible: all that seems to have been shaken.

Personalizing the Musharraf case will do more harm to armed forces than good and ultimately to Pakistan. It will reinforce the idea that there are two classes in Pakistan, military and the civilians and that even after 72 years since its birth they have not made a communion and become one.

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