NEWS & VIEWS
WHILE addressing a press conference at Punjab House on Wednesday, Nawaz Sharif said: “I am holding this presser to reveal and bring on record why cases were filed against me in the accountability court. The purpose of the cases was to get me out of PM House and stop the treason case against Musharraf.” But this is contrary to the facts, as the government had allowed Pervez Musharraf to leave the country for medical treatment, arguably to appease military who left on 17 March 2016. In fact, PML-N did not handle the situation vis-à-vis Panama papers released in April 2016, and the rest is history. As regards the sit-in by PTI, it had been started by the PTI in August 2014 against rigging in 2013 elections, and the PAT had joined to protest Model Town tragedy in which 20 PAT workers were killed and more than 100 injured.
On June 05, 2013, Nawaz Sharif had taken oath as Prime Minister of Pakistan. See his temerity that on June 23, 2013 while addressing the National Assembly he had said that the government would put former military ruler Pervez Musharraf on trial for treason – charges punishable by death or life imprisonment. Reportedly, the then COAS General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani or military was not averse to the trial; however they were opposed to humiliation of Musharraf or of the institution. Constitutional expert and renowned lawyer S.M. Zafar appearing at a local TV channel had then remarked: “Suspension or keeping the constitution in abeyance was not an offence in November 3, 2007, as it was added to the Article 6 in the 18th amendment”. There seemed to be a consensus among constitutional experts that Musharraf’s collaborators and those who aided and abetted should also be tried under Article 6 of the Constitution.
The next COAS General Raheel Sharif also continued with the policy of non-interference. But in view of the baneful discourse, which for all intents and purposes intended to run the army down in the popular eye, General Raheel Sharif responded. At Ghazi base many officers had protested the way army was being pilloried, vilified and assailed left, right and centre. General Raheel Sharif had then said that “army would resolutely preserve its own dignity and institutional pride.” A section of the chattering classes had run away with General Raheel Sharif’s Ghazi base pronouncements to launch into a scurrilous and provocative discourse. If our law makers could swear they would defend parliament’s supremacy; and if judges could proclaim not to allow judiciary’s independence to be compromised in any circumstances, what was wrong with Army chief’s pronouncement. Of course, their churlish discourse is not coming as music to the ears in the barracks.
The vilification campaign had been started in the wake of the strings of cases slapped on Pervez Musharraf after his un-thoughtful return to the country. In particular, his trial on the charges of high treason before the special court had been turned into a media event and a matinee show not only to humiliate and degrade him personally but in the process to launch derisive and pejorative broadsides against the army. The commentariat and chattering classes should have understood that Pervez Musharraf was under trial, and like any other accused normally would do, he was taking recourse to the pleas and appeals to secure relief. So why to make fun of him when he was doing what an under-trial would ordinarily would do. If he sought to go out of the country, what was wrong with it, because even convicts had gone into exile as a result of some shabby deals?
On April 06, 2000, Nawaz Sharif was sentenced to life after being found guilty of terrorism and hijacking, but was acquitted of conspiracy to murder charge. Kulsoom Nawaz had said Nawaz Sharif was the victim of a personal vendetta by Pakistan’s military leader and accused the judge of delivering a verdict written by someone else. Prosecutors during the two-month trial had claimed that Nawaz Sharif tried to stop a commercial aircraft with General Pervez Musharraf on board from landing in Pakistan, risking the lives of 198 passengers. Pervez Musharraf whom Nawaz Sharif had sacked only landed after the army took control of Karachi airport, staging a coup hours later on October 12 1999, what he said was a counter-coup. Anyhow, the other day Nawaz Sharif said that he was being punished for pursuing high treason case against Pervez Musharraf; and also talked about judiciary and NAB’s vendentta.
Pandora’s Box haunts all stakeholders, as Pervez Musharraf’s lawyers indicated that the then members of the cabinet and government functionaries would be sucked in if the process continues. Their line of argument is that had the October 1999 act not been legitimised by the judiciary, November 2007 would not have happened. Anyhow, the tiff between civil and military leaderships could end up into something wholly undesirable; hence sanity should prevail all around. It has to be mentioned that power has its own dynamics; but there is a shocking propensity on the part of democratically elected leaders, military dictators and even judiciary to wield more and more powers. The then Chief Justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry had said that Supreme Court could strike down any amendment or law which negated the spirit of the Constitution. Nawaz should not grumble over striking down the amendment making him party head by the Supreme Court.
—The writer is a senior journalist based in Lahore.