I, for one, am glad that General Musharraf was allowed to leave the country

Published: July 25, 2016
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Pakistan's former military ruler Pervez Musharraf left the country on March 18, 2016, after the Supreme Court lifted a three-year ban on him travelling abroad, airport sources confirmed to AFP. PHOTO: PHILIP HOLLIS

It is embarrassing to admit it but when General Musharraf took over in 1999 through a bloodless military coup, one did support the aims and objectives he laid down in his famous seven point address. I, as a 19-year-old living abroad, was particularly thrilled by Musharraf’s invocation of Kemal Ataturk because I felt that only a military man like him could undo the damage done to Pakistan by General Ziaul Haq’s military regime in the 80s. All our hopes were dashed slowly but surely during the decade of Musharraf’s rule.

The lesson to be learnt is that military rule follows its own logic and its own institutional interests. It does not deliver the nation from antediluvian notions and measures undertaken by previous governments, military or civilian. This is why even the worst democracy is better than the best military dictatorship. Democracy, in whatever form, if allowed to work does ultimately evolve to a point where people’s interest becomes paramount.

The failed coup in Turkey has underscored this fact. People came out in droves to support their embattled president precisely because they had realised over a decade that democracy has its dividends. The same realisation, one is sorry to say, has not seeped through in our society yet. This is precisely why we must do all we can to ensure that the democratic set up is sustained by hook or by crook. And this is precisely why, paradoxically, one was glad that General Musharraf was allowed to leave the country instead of going through ignominy of facing the court for treason under Article 6 of the Constitution.

That General Musharraf held the constitution in abeyance and therefore interrupted the constitutional order not once but twice is an undeniable fact. Any fair and impartial court would find him guilty on this count. However, such a verdict is likely to open a Pandora’s Box for the democratically elected government, which I fear democratic forces are not ready to confront. The military has rebuilt its reputation after the successful Zarb-e-Azb operation.

Simultaneously, democratic governments have not yet reached a point where the society at large will act as our brethren in Turkey did. Imran Khan let the cat out of the bag when he declared that if the army took over in Pakistan, people would distribute sweets. Coming days after the terrific resistance by Turkish people, this was a damning, if inadvertent, indictment of the mindset that continues to plague the nation.

Therefore, General Musharraf’s indictment, sentencing and logically the punishment itself are all grave provocations that may be seized upon by the military to undermine civilian rule. This is precisely what happened in 2014 with the dharna drama. As a result of the dharna drama, civilian government was forced to cede ground on many a front.

Then there is the obvious question of fairness.

Why must an ostensibly liberal coup maker face the trial while the crimes of the past committed by General Ziaul Haq’s regime continue to be ignored? A multitude of ordinances put in place by General Zia’s regime continue to be on the books, despite the 18th Amendment which sought to undo his legacy. On the legal side, our system does not allow for posthumous trials. Hence, no justice is available for General Ziaul Haq. Nor does our legal system allow for trials in absentia, a point made by Justice Mazhar Alam Miankhel during the latest installment of the special court hearing on Musharraf.

This was the real point of the hearing and not, as it was reported in the media, the freezing of Musharraf’s bank accounts and the confiscation of his property ordered by the court. It would be interesting to see what property is actually in Musharraf’s name in Pakistan and what, if any, are the amounts in his bank accounts in Pakistan.

According to London based investigative journalist, James D Crickton, Musharraf has a bank account or bank accounts in Switzerland. It is likely that most if not all of Musharraf’s financial worth is buried in those accounts. The court’s decision therefore to freeze Musharraf’s bank accounts and confiscate his property is a face saving device. So long as Musharraf remains outside the country, his trial is impossible. Do not hold your breath for the government’s measures to extradite him. If the government is smart, it will let the status quo be.

The battle to redress the civil-military imbalance has to be fought as if it was on a chess board. Every move has to be analysed carefully, so as to avoid a checkmate for civilian rule in Pakistan. Nor can advocates for a democratic Pakistan appear to be too eager to checkmate the military for the fear that the latter may topple the chessboard and declare game over.

Meanwhile, democratic governments must work to realise their gains. They must ensure that the benefits of democratic governance become so obvious to the people that they no longer support military interventions. This would require forbearance and patience on part of the elected government, especially in its dealing with the opposition parties. Everyone must be made to feel that they have a stake in the continuation of constitutional rule.

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

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Yasser Latif Hamdani

Yasser Latif Hamdani

The writer is a lawyer based in Lahore and the author of the book Mr Jinnah: Myth and Reality. He tweets as @theRealYLH (twitter.com/therealylh)

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

  • Wanderer

    ‘According to London based investigative journalist, James D Crickton, Musharraf has a bank account or bank accounts in Switzerland’.

    Though not a Musharraf partisan, this is factually incorrect. No such journalist exists. A simple Google search revealed this as many reputable journalists like Zarrar Khuhro mentioned.

    Also, IK did not invite a coup as is alleged by many commentators. one may agree or disgaree with his observation, but to suggest that he invited a coup is plain dishonesty (I dont mean you suggest this).
    Overall, I agree with your main argument but how long will our political class find excuses for their incompetence and corruption (yes generals are also corrupt, but its not an excuse and they are not elected) in past events (dharna etc)?Recommend

  • Parvez

    Musharraf is history……he stand neutralized and discredited…..if not disgraced.Recommend

  • Luqman

    I don’t understand the point of this article/blog post. It seems the author just redressed news tidbits and oft-stated arguments. What should be highlighted is that “democracy” is not necessarily the solution that fits every environment. Many countries, notably those in close vicinity have done exceedingly well using alternate set-ups. Singapore has prospered under dictatorship. China is another example. Common folk are driven by results of, not by the form of government. Musharraf was held in high esteem until economic progress slowed, and that too was driven by elements against Pakistan’s progress. You should be sad that Musharraf is being dragged through this “trial” while the corrupt overlords of the nation are finding novel ways to loot the country further without any accountabilityRecommend

  • Hammurabi

    excellent.keep it upRecommend

  • KAMAL KHAN

    MURDERER – Allowed The US To Kill Pakistani’s ON Pakistani Soil by use of Drones 95% Killed were Civilians. Allowed 4 American Bases into Pakistan. Kidnapped Dr. Aafia Siddiqui and Her 2 Children and Handed them Over to The Americans on The Pak-Afghan Border. Allowed OVER &,7,500 Blackwater/Xe Services Merceneries {Contractors} into Pakistan 10 Years Back and They ALL have gone Underground and see the Chaos in Pakistan NOW . PLUS He wanted to Recognize Israel and allow them to Set up an Embassy in Islamabad. {{The Problem with ALL you PAKI’s is That you Idol Worship ANYONE and do not know what REALLY is going on}}Recommend

  • PatelPara

    FACT: Musharraf era was gazillion times better than democracy for the common Pakistani. These journalists, analysts etc don’t and never will think from a common man’s perspective.Recommend

  • Humza

    Musharraf is a criminal who took over illegally and made Pakistan look like just another Muslim Banana Republic. Until and unless Muslims realize that democracy is not perfect anywhere and they people need to be patient and work within a system, Muslims will be condemned to be ruled by kings, generals and dictators while the world ridicules the inability of Muslim states to follow a constitution and allow people to learn democracy. Musharraf should be forced to be put on trial to prevent such a recurrence. He was an embarrassment and clown of the greatest order who doesn’t deserve to get away and Nawaz Sharif cannot be forgiven for letting Musharraf run away for urgent health care. Do you think Turkey is going to let the generals who committed treason to just fly away? The fact that Musharraf has so much illegal money stashed away in Switzerland only reveals more of his real character. His illegal money was proven by a British investigative reporter. The political class in Pakistan has to be a given a fair chance to prove democracy – not be threatened after a few years by an establishment that doesn’t understand that a stable democracy and political system is the best thing to ensure the stability of any country.Recommend

  • Wajahat Shafi

    i agree with author ,i too was 19years old and preparing for my medical entrance EXAM and being immature thrilled by Musharaff 7 points agenda.but inturn Musharaf gave us 12MAY and rise of Rcist party MQM, target killing in karachi,,the very same establishment whom musharaf lead ,now blaming MQM chief as a RAW agent,Musharraf MUST answer thisRecommend

  • oats

    I don’t idol worship anyone and I am as Paki as anyone can get. Pakistan is a democracy and not like the other Muslim nations who prefer authoritarian rule. Nawaz can go, Imran can go, Zardari can go and Musharraf can go like everyone has to go but the system will stay. Pakistanis understand this.Recommend

  • gp65

    Sadly in Pakistan, anyone who is currently not in power is discredited.
    Despite allowing the first successful democratic transition occur under his watch, despite supporting the civil society’s movement for restoration of CJ, despite conducting two operations – one in Swat and another in SWA, Kayani is discredited today is he not?
    At the time Musharraf came to power, he was already responsible for the Kargill episode which derailed the landmark peace initiative taken by Vajpayee and Nawaz, yet he was popular. His ascent to power itself was by deposing a popularly elected PM, yet he was popular. He handed over hundreds of Pakistani citizens to US without travel and collected bounty and yet he was popular.
    So what is he discredited for? The action for which people should actually be grateful to him – acting against the Lal Masjid tormentors.Recommend

  • Salim Alvi

    Crook Mushy should not have come back. But he thought he is like Jinah and has Anglos support. Brutalized public does not matter in such things.Recommend