ZA Bhutto was put on trial, why not Musharraf?

Published: January 18, 2014
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Our history is as fraught with corrupt military leaders as it is with corrupt politicians. Then, why have we always held politicians accountable but not military men?

There is no doubt that Pakistan has suffered at the hands of corrupt politicians since its very inception. These politicians came and led the state to ruin, forcing/enabling the military to intervene on multiple occasions.

This ultimately led to a nation where martial law governed for more than half of its life. However, our history shows that these military coups were never successful for the country.

Many wonder if these military dictatorships were more beneficial for Pakistan or for the foreign policies of the US. After all, General Ziaul Haq served the US and that helped the country, or so we thought until much later. Pervez Musharraf also served the US but he was not smart enough, and we ended up with our own blood on our hands.

So I have some serious concerns.

When the government was found to be corrupt, our army came in to ‘save the day’, right?

When democracy failed in the past, we abolished it by imposing martial law in the country.

Now that the army has failed, should we treat the institution the same way?

Of course we cannot do that since we have enemies on our east and west, and the never-ending ‘Kashmir issue’, which requires a vigilant and alert military at all times. But can’t we put the army under civilian leadership and curtail its interference in matters of governance?

Can’t we reduce the defence budget and utilise it for the development and education of Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and other less-developed areas so that we may not need to have army operations in the future?

Let me take you down memory lane and remind you of certain faux pas that took place in our history and you can judge for yourself how beneficial military rule has been for this country.

Did you know that General Ayub Khan made the first Five Year Plan in which East Pakistan got Rs1 for every Rs8 that was spent on West Pakistan? This was the first formal discriminatory government policy which clearly indicated that East Pakistan was less important than West Pakistan.

Did you know that the 10 years when hate flourished between East and West Pakistan were also termed the ‘green’ years of General Ayub Khan? When you remember growth under Ayub Khan’s era, please remember what we were losing at the same time.

It was during the 1960s that the gap between East and West Pakistan widened due to the negative attitude of the government towards East Pakistanis. They were not given their deserved place in matters related to budget, strategy, governance and autonomy.

Do you remember who was ruling Pakistan in 1971 when we lost East Pakistan?

It was General Yahya Khan and it was his support to Bhutto that led to the fall of Dhaka. But Bhutto was jailed, put on trial and hanged.

There are many who may dislike Bhutto and his policies but he ruled like a man and died like a man.

For Bhutto we saw the death penalty as a punishment fit for his crimes but now that we are faced with putting an ex-army man on trial for adopting a foreign war and suicidal strategies within the boundaries of Pakistan, we are hesitating and coming up with excuses?

Even Asif Ali Zardari was put on trial, jailed and tortured. He was released only when charges against him were not proven. So why then, are we selective about punishing ‘corrupt’ civilians only, while the army is allowed to run scot free?

Now that an ex-military general is to be put on trial, people are doubtful. Words such as ‘biased’, ‘blind’ and ‘selective trial’ can be heard all around.

But who is being selective here?

In all our history, we have never put any uniformed culprit behind bars.

We did not punish General Yahya for the fall of Dhaka nor did we put General Zia on trial for the weaponisation of the state, poor Afghan policy, Ojhri camp disaster and many more. Similarly, Pervez Musharraf was never held accountable for poor intelligence, the Balochistan issue or his weak Afghan policy.

People who claim that this trial is biased and selective need to understand that this is not hatred for an institution; it is a call for much-needed justice.

We are not taking any sides simply because no person or institution is worthy enough to be sided with. If you still think we must take sides, then in this case I choose to take the side of all civilians who died in drone attacks which began under Musharraf.

I choose to call for justice for my Baloch brothers.

I choose to cry out against the thousands of visas given to foreign spies and intelligence.

I choose to ask for justice against thousands of missing people.

I choose to raise my voice against all the injustices that took place during his regime, by him or because of him.

It is time for Musharraf to be put to trial. Let us put a military dictator behind bars and end this fuss over dictatorship and democracy – not by taking sides – but by ensuring a fair trial.

We, the people of Pakistan want to hold all those accountable who went against Pakistan, whether they were civilians, politicians or military dictators. We need to put an end to our biased justice system that only punishes civilians and politicians but chooses to let the crimes of military rulers go unpunished.

Let us put Musharraf on trial for his grave misdeed to the state and set an example for all time to come.

Let us be as focused and determined in bringing him to justice because if we let him run scot free now, we will never hear the end of it. And the next time that we wish to put someone guilty on trial, we will be presented with the argument,

“Musharraf was let off, why not this person?”

And where will that leave us?

We, as Pakistanis, are proud of our army, perhaps, more than we are of any other institution in Pakistan. We proudly recount stories of pilot officer Rashid Minhas, Major Aziz Bhatti, Squadron Leader Muhammad Mahmood Alam and many more. Standing against Musharraf does not mean going against our military. It means standing against a person who misused his powers against his own people.

If you want to take sides, then take the side of Pakistan.

Pakistan deserves to see Musharraf tried for all the blood that we see in our streets today.

Aziz Hamza

Aziz Hamza

A Masters in Entrepreneurship and Internationalization from Sweden, a business case writer and researcher at UMT, he tweets as @azi_hamza (twitter.com/azi_hamza)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.