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Friday, December 03, 2021

Reading the sentence

Supreme Court verdict on Musharraf is a significant moment that may not make a dent in civil-military relations

By: Editorial |
December 19, 2019 4:15:29 am
Reading the sentence The death sentence to Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan’s military ruler from 1999 to 2008, marks a significant moment in that country’s history.

The death sentence to Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan’s military ruler from 1999 to 2008, marks a significant moment in that country’s history. The verdict was pronounced by a special court set up to try him on the charge of treason for suspending the Constitution and declaring an Emergency in 2007 when as many as 60 members of the higher judiciary were detained. The coup within a coup — it was by then nine years since Musharraf had ousted Nawaz Sharif — came at a time when the Supreme Court was deliberating the validity of Musharraf’s bid for a second term as president. The Court had already declared his 2007 Emergency unconstitutional and illegal in a verdict in 2009. The decision to put him on trial under Article 6 of the Constitution, which specifies the abrogation of the Constitution as a treasonable offence, and makes it punishable by death, was taken by the government of Nawaz Sharif in 2013.

The death sentence is unlikely to be carried out. For one, Musharraf, lives in self-exile in the UAE. For another, the security establishment will ensure this does not happen. The army has already rejected the conviction of a former army chief and declared he could “never” be a traitor. Being on the “same page” as the army, the Imran Khan government is not about to rush to implement the sentence. The demands from the Opposition, too, are likely to be muted. Even so, the verdict is significant, following as it does the Supreme Court quashing of the three-year extension to General Qamar Javed Bajwa. But the real question is: Will it change existing equations? The Pakistan Army is capable of ditching individuals to safeguard its institutional interests. Since 2008, when Musharraf was forced out of office, the army has preferred to maintain ties with him only to ensure that its own power is not eroded by civilian governments. Otherwise, it has made every effort to turn the page on the notoriety the Musharraf era earned it. It now projects itself as an “apolitical force”, even as it continues to wield political power without accountability.

As far as India is concerned, the improved bilateral atmosphere in Musharraf’s time had more to do with the post 9/11 environment than any sincerity on the part of the architect of Kargil to make peace. The ceasefire on the LoC is the lasting legacy from the time, but all that has happened in India-Pak relations since November 2008, including the ceasefire violations, has proved that peace requires statesmanship of a higher order than the leadership on either side has shown at any time.

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