All of Pakistan has been waiting with bated breath for the last three or four days to see what will be the fate of former military dictator General Pervez Musharraf who is finally facing trial for high treason before the Supreme Court.
Musharraf, who ruled the country with an iron hand and callous disdain for nine years, suddenly felt the urgency to go to an army-run cardiology care hospital after he left his huge palatial farm house where he has been residing under house arrest to appear before the court. Musharraf has been ignoring the court summons for quite some time until the court last week issued final summons in which failing oblige could have meant jail time.
During the days of his all powerful military dictatorship, the general was known for raising fists at the protesting public and boasting he never feared anything in the world, even death. Now, he is trying to make Pakistan’s Army his shield to ward off the accountability of his crimes against Pakistan.
Musharraf has now practically taken refuge behind the iron walls of the army institute of cardiology. For the last four days, no information about his health or his intentions has come out, giving rise to a lot of rumors. Among those were that preparations were being made to fly him out of the hospital via air ambulance after interventions by the United States or United Kingdom.
A history of deviance
The dictator killed scores of Islamists and sold away hundreds more to the U.S. agencies on charges of having connections to Al-Qaeda and Taliban. He subverted the constitution of Pakistan twice. First, when he overthrew the elected government of Nawaz Sharif in October 1999 to become fourth military dictator in country’s history.
Then he again broke the constitution when he forcibly dismissed all 17 judges of the Supreme Court in November 2007 after they refused to submit to his demands.
Nawaz Sharif was one of his top victims sent into forced exile along with his family for seven years in Saudi Arabia. Nawaz Sharif had been reluctant in prosecuting Musharraf for treason and faced a lot of criticism and condemnation for not taking action. Finally, Sharif prosecuted Musharraf in a limited trial on charges of dismissing the judiciary and spared Musharraf from the trial of overtaking his elected government in 1999.
Cardiac disease is not predictable. But with influential people like retired General Musharraf who keep regular medical check-ups, it always comes with prior indications and warnings. All through the trial over the last year, his team of lawyers has been making numerous arguments before the court to exempt him from personal appearance before the court. But none of them ever mentioned any danger to his health, especially any cardiac problems.
The mysterious silence from the public relations department over the issue of Musharraf so far has created more doubts about the army than removing them. The question is if Musharraf has succeeded in slipping away from the clutches of law and the state. Only the army can give the answer.Mansoor Jafar
Suffering from a ‘mysterious’ cardiac problem right when he was going to face the court under final summons raised suspicions. Going straight to a cardiac hospital run directly by the Army, complemented those suspicions. A number of specialized cardiac hospitals and hospital complexes catering to the affluent were situated very close to his farm house. But Musharraf’s security convoy went straight to Armed Forces Institute of Cardiology (AFIC) situated a long distance away.
During the trial, Musharraf has claimed that entire army was on his back and was strongly opposed to prosecuting its former generals for treason. By taking refuge in AFIC, Musharraf had practically dragged the army deep into his trial. So far, AFIC doctors had refrained from issuing any health bulletin about his condition, or the state of his treatment. There was no word about his medical reports that keep the nation guessing if he was really sick or feigning sickness to avoid arrest.
In the past, former president Rafiq Tarar also suffered some cardiac problems and was taken to AFIC and was given necessary treatment for two days. During that time, regular health bulletins were issued by AFIC doctors to keep the nation satisfied. Rumors are that former General Musharraf could use his influence over army to get favorable medical reports from AFIC to facilitate him fleeing the country without trial.
All eyes on the army
All eyes are now upon the new army chief General Raheel Sharif, but he has avoided giving any response so far. The Public Relations department of the army has also kept a mysterious silence over the matter. In the past, it has promptly issued statements. Last month, the leader of right wing group Jamaat Islami, Syed Munawwar Hasan, issued a controversial statement that attracted criticism of the army. The situation was compounded when public relations department issued a needless statement that invited more criticism regarding the army’s role in reportedly killing its own people on the request of the U.S.
The mysterious silence from the public relations department over the issue of Musharraf so far has created more doubts about the army than removing them. The question is if Musharraf has succeeded in slipping away from the clutches of law and the state. Only the army can give the answer. In light of the ‘Memo-gate’ scandal, the Supreme Court has decided to use every latest technology in prosecution.
The Criminal Law Amendment Act defined high treason clause 9 and states that proceedings should continue despite the accused feeling ill. This clause leaves no room for Musharraf to escape his trial despite being ‘sick.’ All eyes are now set on army Chief General Raheel Sharif. If Musharraf fled the country at this juncture of the trial, all the blame would fall on the leadership of the army.
Mansoor Jafar is Editor of Al Arabiya Urdu based in Islamabad. He can be reached via Twitter: @mansoorjafar
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