Pakistan Reader# 375, 9 September 2022
Oliver Cromwell was a general and statesman, one of the few, who had tried to dislodge the monarchy in the UK. His plans outlived his life and his corpse was dug up, hung in chains and beheaded because of his intentions against the royal family. A similar political debate has been brewing in Pakistan, post the update on the declining health of General Musharraf over the years and his desire to live the remainder of his days in Pakistan. General Musharraf suffers from a rare disease and needs uninterrupted drug administration which may make the case for his return harder. Many quarters and institutions have expressed their opinion on the return of Musharraf to Pakistan. Pakistanis are divided and frustrated over the Army’s desire to bring him back, some want justice to take its course, some demand capital punishment without a trial and some say, Musharraf has got a rebuke (ibrat) from Allah and he should be brought back to set an example in Pakistan for other authoritarian and ill-intentioned representatives.
Is there a legal case against his return?
Many criminal cases are pending against Musharraf, he has been named in ongoing investigations and trials in the Benazir Bhutto murder case, the Lal Masjid siege and the Akbar Bugti murder prosecution. He was handed over the death sentence in 2019 in a case of high treason charges against him for implementing the emergency rule and suspending the constitution in 2007. However, Lahore High Court later annulled a petition filed by the ruling PTI government which said that due procedures were not followed during the trial against Musharraf.
Who wants Musharraf back?
DG ISPR during a press conference on 14 June said that in the light of the deteriorating health of General Musharraf, the institution and leadership believe that Pervez Musharraf should return. PML(N) supremo Nawaz Sharif on his earlier said that he has no personal enmity with Musharraf and urged the ruling coalition government to facilitate his return to Pakistan. Defence Minister Khwaja Asif also endorsed this view and mentioned that Pervez Musharraf should be allowed to spend his final days at home ‘with dignity, adding that he should be permitted to return to the country without any ‘obstacles.’ Journalistic quarters have also toed the line of ISPR's stand on Musharraf's return and they have not claimed a stand of their own.
Who is against his return?
Judiciary and its allied sub-institutions, which had been instrumental in bringing down Musharraf’s popularity and later handed him the death sentence have not yet publicly taken a stand on his return, yet history is witness to the peak of the power struggle between judiciary and military, whereby Musharraf had suspended Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry and used MQM to suppress his efforts to align bar association in Sindh with his restoration movement. The return of Musharraf may create some anxiety in some sections of the judiciary, which live up to the principle of rule of law and the superiority of the judiciary in practising and upholding the constitution. Judiciary would like to avoid revival or face up to any personality which can create divisions in an already polarized institution. Lastly, a statement from Yusuf Raza Gilani, sums it all up, Gilani on 15 June had said that the question is not addressed to them and if they could not stop Musharraf from exiting the country then they certainly cannot stop him from coming back. He said: “These decisions will not be taken by us ... they will be taken somewhere else.” The question, therefore, is not whether Musharraf should be allowed to return or not, the important question is whether Pakistani are willing to accept the superior position of the military and accept the status quo and kind of governance which has been evolving in Pakistan since decades as itself professed by military again and again.