Musharraf Treason Verdict Has Righted A Wrong
Justice Markandey Katju praises the Pakistan judiciary for its verdict against former dictator Pervez Musharraf in high treason case. He argues that all institutions in the country should know that they are not above the law.
Pakistani army officers and ministers seem enraged and are shouting themselves hoarse against the recent verdict of a 3 member Special Court sentencing former army chief Gen Musharraf to death for high treason.
To my mind, there can be no manner of doubt that the verdict is correct.
Article 6 of the Pakistan Constitution states “Any person who abrogates or subverts or suspends or hold in abeyance the Constitution, or attempts to do so, by use of force or show of force or any other unconstitutional means, shall be guilty of high treason “.
Gen Musharraf was clearly guilty of high treason, as in 1999 he suspended the Pakistan Constitution after staging a blatantly unconstitutional army coup. He was again guilty of high treason in 2007 when he again suspended the Constitution, declared martial law, illegally suspended the Chief Justice of Pakistan, and dismissed judges of the Supreme Court and High Court who did not take oath of allegiance to the army.
Pakistan army spokesman Maj.Gen. Asif Ghafoor has said that the verdict “has been received with a lot of pain and anguish by the rank and file of the Pakistan armed forces. Someone who served for 40 years, and fought wars in the defense of the country can never be a traitor “.
But this statement overlooks Article 6 of the Pakistan Constitution (quoted above). Should a judgment not be given just because it causes pain and anguish to someone?
Prime Minister Imran Khan had once been a strong critic of Musharraf, and had demanded that he be tried for treason. However, later on, due to his lust for power, he has changed his tune, and has cozied up to the military, and is widely perceived as its puppet.
His ministers are falling head over heels in condemning the verdict. His Sancho Panza, Science and Technology Minister Fawad Chaudhry has said that the judiciary has “pushed the army against a wall. It is an honour based institution. If you keep doing so, won’t they react? “.
The response to this is (1) The judiciary has not pushed anyone against a wall. It has only gone by what is clearly stated in Article 6 of the Pakistan Constitution
(2) The Pakistan army can hardly be called ‘an honour based institution ‘. In my article ‘The Truth about the Pakistan military’ published in indicanews.com and in Ayesha Siddiqa’s book ‘Military Inc’ details have been given how the Pakistan military has penetrated into almost every sector of the Pakistan economy through the Fauji Foundation, Army Welfare Trust, Shaheen Foundation, etc.
Ever since General Ayub Khan staged a military coup in 1958, the Pakistan army has behaved like a tiger which has tasted human blood. Following the dictum ‘Power grows out of the barrel of a gun’, it has terrorized all sections of Pakistan society who dare not question its misdeeds, fearing terrible consequences. It has ruled directly over Pakistan for 33 years, and indirectly for much of the rest. Its senior officers are staunch supporters of the retired Generals, and oppose any action against their misdeeds, firstly because the latter were their superiors to whom they still have a sense of loyalty, and secondly because they themselves will one day retire and may face similar action unless a precedent is established that Generals are immune.
But are Generals above the law? In the Nuremberg Trials Field Marshal Keitel and Gen Jodl, and in the Tokyo Trials, Generals Tojo and Yamashita, were sentenced to be hanged. The law is above everybody, howsoever high.
It is the first time in Pakistan’s history that a military leader has faced any kind of accountability for his misdeeds by a civilian authority (the judiciary).
In my article ‘Three cheers for the Pakistan SC’, I have praised the Pakistan Supreme Court for showing guts in checking Gen Bajwa’s extension, and have contrasted it to the Indian SC which has cowardly surrendered before the BJP government (considering its disgraceful Ayodhya verdict, its shameful treatment of Justice Kureshi and its cowardly refusal to uphold the rights of Kashmiris, etc).
Three cheers again to the Pakistan judiciary for its death sentence on Musharraf. All institutions in Pakistan need to stop regarding themselves above the law. The generals should know that for acting unconstitutionally the gallows await them.
Markandey Katju is a former judge of the Supreme Court of India. He was also the Chairman of the Press Council of India.