Why did PML-N let Musharraf go?

Published: March 22, 2016

It is ironic that the party that boasts in its election manifesto to have courageously fought martial law regime of Musharraf has provided a safe passage for the former military dictator. PHOTO: REUTERS

Those who had anticipated the former military dictator lingering behind bars, for monopolising power through unlawful acts for nearly a decade, are reminded of Manto’s masterpiece, Naya Qanoon. The story was written during the British rule in India in the midst of the promise of limited government under the Indian Act of 1935. Ustad Mangu, an ordinary, disillusioned tonga driver in Lahore attempted to test the new law by responding to racial discrimination. Mangu was arrested for beating an English man but kept screaming,

“New constitution, Naya Qanoon!”

The police retorted,

“What nonsense are you talking? What Naya Qanoon? It’s the same old constitution, you fool.”

Mangu was then locked up.

In 2013, Pakistan witnessed its first ever successful democratic transition of power. With this transition, the muscle-flexing by different institutions, in particular the Supreme Court and the Prime Minister showing determination to preserve its independence, and commitment to the rule of law had created a new hope that the old politics of expediency and the Doctrine of Necessity will shun forever. However, with Musharraf’s exit, sadly the old power politics have once again come to the forefront to eclipse the rule of law.

It is ironic that the party that boasts, in its election manifesto, to have courageously fought the martial law regime of Musharraf, has now provided a safe passage for the former military dictator. What is most unfortunate is that, it has been done at a time when a new culture of accountability is gradually emerging in Pakistan. Since the judges’ struggle against Musharraf’s rule, the judiciary has earned an unprecedented independence and a stature. This emergence of historical judicial power within the political setup draws its legitimacy from the support of civil society, the media, political parties and global legal community – all stand vehemently in favour of holding those accountable who have experimented with the constitution for decades. By allowing Musharraf to go abroad, apparently for health-related reasons, and escape trial, PML-N has seriously dented the cause of rule of law in Pakistan.

Similarly, the trial of the former dictator was important to shape the future direction of Pakistan. It could expedite the on-going political process towards democratic transition. However, due credit must be given to the current government for at least initiating the trial that has culminated in charging, for the first time in Pakistan’s history, a former army chief for his misadventures. By letting Musharraf go half-way, shows PML-N’s weakness and exposes the limits of civilians and judiciary. The biggest tragedy of this entire episode is the fact that  though Pakistan has come eight years down the road of civilian rule, retired generals still remain much more powerful than elected prime ministers and a ‘free, independent’ judiciary!

Do you think Musharraf should have been allowed to leave the country during a trial?

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Kashif Ali

Kashif Ali

The writer holds Masters in governance and public policy from Germany and works in the development sector. He tweets as @s_kashif8 (twitter.com/s_kashif8)

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

  • Keyboard Soldier

    It was a necessary evil.

    The civilians are not powerful enough to challenge the generals of the GHQ, because they have 500,000 armed men, without even mentioning the tactical nuclear weapons, that have a 50 km to 100 km range.

    Perhaps, in about 10 to 15 years, the rule of law may be applied to them – provided elections are held back-to-back – but for now they are the puppet masters.Recommend

  • ZeeCarolina

    Stop supporting sham democracy. Musharraf’s rule was a thousand times more democratic and economically and socially better for Pakistan than these so called democratically elected prime ministers. Why do you complain about Musharraf breaking the the constitution and conveniently forget the democrats you support are corrupt criminals who have looted and plundered Pakistan and even killed their opponents? Where is your “respected” judiciary now when criminals like the Sharif and Zardari families are running the country? Pathetic argument really.Recommend

  • Sajid

    I would ask the writer of this article that was it not Mushasaf who granted the press the freedom. Today you are writing this article but in the past you wouldn’t have. Today hundreds of TV Chanells talk about politics freely but have you forgotten that there weren’t any until the same dictator allowed them to be. You may think you are a great journalist today but give this person some credit who brought about these changes. Pre Musharraf era the democratically elected governments used PTV a government controlled channel to further their own agents.
    my friend gets reality check. You should be thanking this same person.Recommend

  • cautious

    Anyone name a another country where someone accused of two capital offenses was allowed to stay at home in his mansion let alone be allowed to leave the country for “medical reasons”? The military has terrified the govt/judiciary and “free press” .. and yet it continues to be the darling of the public —- go figure.Recommend

  • Ali Sheikh

    I am sory to say that the writer does not know facts. It was only under the reigime of Mr P Musharraf and Mr S Aziz that Pakistan was able to get rid of IMF. It was only under his rule that Pak prospered and Foreign direct investment increased many folds and GDP growth rate was well above 7 percent. Pak had a growing middle class. The press had freedom. These are all FACTS and DOCUMENTED FACTS, I would prefer his rule over this corrupt democracy that only benefits the rulers everytime. Any doubts over stats go and research first.Recommend

  • Mohammad

    start is wrong.. PMLN or any other political party or individual has the authority to let any go out out of country or comes in.. it’s only the Law.. if the Law permits, a person can go anywhere he wish.

    Correct yourself!Recommend

  • Imran Supariwala

    If country’s top court(Supreme Court of Pakistan) says that they have no issue with Musharraf leaving the country for medical treatment then what could Government have done except to comply with SC’s order.Recommend

  • http://solomon2.blogspot.com/ Solomon2

    “…By letting Musharraf go half-way, shows PML-N’s weakness and exposes the limits of civilians and judiciary…retired generals still remain much more powerful than elected prime ministers and a ‘free, independent’ judiciary”

    As an external observer, I am not so sure if continued prosecution of Musharraf would strengthen Pakistan’s nascent democracy or weaken it through begetting unnecessary strife. Does Nawaz see himself as merely an elected functionary and thus bent to outside pressure or has he matured enough not to push a vendetta against the man he plotted against and ensured his (temporary) fall from power to the point it could damage the country?Recommend

  • Hammurabi

    Musharraf did not take over due to corruption of ruling party. As a matter of fact he did not accept being replaced as the Army Chief.I agree that his performance as president was good enough..But he violated the constitution and got it condoned from clergy and judges.He appointed his cronies at key posts.He exonerated the criminals of his favorite political party. He posed as sick while he was attending every activity?..He imprisoned and humiliated the judiciary.Why did he pose as sick and avoid courts?His role in liberating the press is laudable.though.Recommend

  • Humza

    Show me your so called facts ! Musharraf’s era was the worst thing ever to happen to Pakistan. You may prefer dictatorship over democracy but just look at all the other Muslim states and where dictatorship took them. Take your pick: Syria, Egypt, Libya, Iraq or Yemen. Thank goodness the majority of Pakistanis believe in a constitutional state and believe in the long term wisdom of democracy. Don’t you remember that Bush too had great economic numbers before the world banking crisis just like Musharraf and Shaukat Aziz. Wake up and see Musharraf for the opportunist and corrupt dictator he was!Recommend

  • Sane

    Nawaz Sharif had no other option.Recommend

  • Humza

    Another attempt at a reply to this. No one in the world would agree that Musharraf was able to rid the nation of IMF loans ! No one believes your so called documented facts of growth and investment but everyone will agree that terrorism was at its worst, instability at its worst and image at its worst during the 9 years of Musharraf dictatorship. Pakistan looked like one the many Arab states ruled by a dictator like Syria, Iraq, Yemen or Libya under Musharraf. No one in their right mind thinks that the self proclaimed brave commando who take over the civilian government needs to go abroad for medical care. Musharraf is just a coward who escaped the law and now Pakistan may suffer again because he walked away from charges of treason.Recommend