How Pervez Musharraf Undermined Rule Of Law During His Reign
A Special Court on Tuesday sentenced former president Pervez Musharraf to death in a high treason case. The court awarded the punishment for his imposition of the 2007 emergency rule.
We look at the ex-dictator’s (many) overreaches which he committed during his rule by undermining rule of law and democracy in the country.
The 1999 Coup Against Nawaz Sharif
On 12th October, 1999, then Army Chief General Pervez Musharraf declared a coup against Nawaz Sharif.
Musharraf was returning from an official trip from Colombo when his plane was denied landing at Karachi Airport. News started circulating that Nawaz Sharif was replacing the Army Chief again in his two years in power.
This led to a revolt by military officers. They put Sharif under house arrest, surrounded Karachi Airport and let Musharraf’s plane land. Musharraf aired a recorded message to the nation later that night.
On the 15th of October Emergency Rule was announced and on the 21st of October the provinces were put under army administrators.
2007 Imposition of Emergency Rule
On 3rd November, 2007, Musharraf imposed Emergency Rule in the country and passed a Provisional Constitutional Order (PCO).
The emergency scrapped the constitution and replaced the PCO.
Under the PCO, citizens were deprived of their rights to assembly, freedom of movement, information, unions and freedom from arbitrary arrest.
The most significant part of the PCO was the fact that judges were deprived of the right to challenge it and they were being made to take oaths accepting the draconian ordinance. Most Supreme Court judges refused to take the oath and hence were dismissed, including the then recently reinstated Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhary.
2007 Dismissal of the Chief Justice
In the start of 2007, Musharraf removed the Chief Justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Chaudhary by invoking Article 180 and 209 of the constitution. This step of the dictator gave rise to the lawyer’s Movement in the country which protested the deposition of the judges and demanded their restoration.
The removal of the Chief Justice was seen as an attack on the judiciary of the country.
This event was then followed by a series of violent attacks on lawyers. In May 2007, police first attacked lawyers with petrol bombs in Sahiwal when the Justice was visiting the city. The attack led to the death of 13 lawyers.
Then in the same month, Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and the Awami National Party (supporters of the judiciary) clashed with the Mutahida Qaumi Movement and Pakistan Muslim League Quaid (pro-Musharraf parties) over the issue of the Chief Justice’s removal. The clashes led to the death of 40 people.
Musharraf in a speech after the incident, instead of expressing his condolences, blamed the killings on the deposed Chief Justice.
PCO and Resignations of Judges
Iftikhar Chaudhary was reinstated as the Chief Justice in July 2007 but after the imposition of Emergency Rule and the passing of the PCO, he was dismissed with other judges of the supreme court for not taking the oath.
Right after this various activists and lawyers were put under house arrest by the government. This was followed by an attack by the police on the Bar Council offices in Lahore and Karachi.
The Lawyer’s issue carried on well after the 2008 elections and was solved after the 2009 Long March under the People’s Party government.
Attacks on the Media
Musharraf’s regime was known to be extremely harsh towards the media. The government practiced an excess of censorship and control over it.
According to the Guardian, the government had a 14-page booklet that outlined a code of conduct for media outlets to follow. Deviating from the code led to repercussions such as being taken offline or being banned.
The most important events of violence against the media were May 2007 attack on the office of Geo News and the November 2007 banning of the TV channel. Musharraf had ‘apologised’ to the channel for conducting the police raid on their office.
Handling of Benazir’s Assassination
A United Nations report on the Benazir Bhutto’s assassination blamed the government on many levels.
The report claims the government did not provide Benazir with the security that she needed thus leading to the security breach that led to her death. Secondly, the report also raises questions over the washing of the crime scene after her assassination before evidence could be collected. They say that their sources got ‘orders from higher ups’ to carry out the act.
In 2017 an Anti-Terrorism Court labelled Musharraf as a fugitive in the case of Benazir’s assassination.