Sunday, April 14, 2013

Musharraf’s Grave Mistake of Returning to Pakistan

April 13, 2013

By Saeed Qureshi
 To err is human. In that context, Musharraf’s return to Pakistan is patently a fatal mistake for his future and perceived political career. If adjudged as a convict for abrogating the constitution, he could go to jail for a pretty long term. His fate hangs in balance. 

His legal battle is an overwhelming distraction from his political campaigning for the 2013 general elections. His supporters that are sizable in number must have been shocked and rather starkly dismayed over the tragic turn of events against Musharraf for embarking upon a political course as the president of APML.

Pervez Musharraf landed in Pakistan on March 24 after ending his self-imposed exile. Since that day he travels surrounded by an army of body guards and under strict security conditions. This  restricted  and prohibitive movement coupled with the legal cases curtail his chances for lobbying and electioneering for his party and thus dim the possibility of winning any seats in May 11 elections.

He might have had iron-clad guarantees from internal and external undertakers and intermediaries. But evidently in a complex situation that suddenly popped up against him, even king Abdullah may not be able to influence the Pakistan judiciary for letting Musharraf off the hook.

Musharraf who ruled Pakistan for 9 years now conversely is an isolated and helpless person who can look forward to a prolonged involvement in legal wrangling in order to defend him and get absolved. Despite having an army of devoted and zealous fans and party workers, he personally may not benefit from the may 11 elections. 

When the dazzling glory of power fades the tormenting spell of sufferings follows readily When a power wielder falls from grace in third world and unstable societies like Pakistan, a degrading and fearsome nemesis starts.

Field Marshall Ayub Kahn remained at the helm of power for over a decade and look at the miserable manner he went into oblivion. Those Pakistani leaders who betrayed or did not serve Pakistan in right earnest would remain despised for all time to come. And former COAS and Pakistan’s president Musharraf would be no exception for an indelible stigma tagged with his name.

There are several high profile criminal cases pending against Musharraf in Pakistani courts. These are subverting constitution of Pakistan and treason trial under clause 6 of the constitution, the murder of PPP chairperson Benazir Bhutto and Baluch leader Nawab Akbar Bugti and the Lal Masjid massacre.

A two-judge bench of the apex court has summoned Musharraf on April 15 in connection with his trial under Article-6 of the High Treason Act 1973 for imposing emergency rule and arresting 60 judges including Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry in 2007.

 With regard to Benazir Bhutto’s murder case, the Anti-Terrorist Court (ATC) has once again summoned all the accused including the former president Pervez Musharraf on April 23. Currently Pervez Musharraf is on an interim bail in murder cases of Benazir Bhutto & Nawab Akbar Bugti. In August 2011 he was declared a proclaimed offender and his property was attached because of his absence.

Pervez Musharraf’s latest acknowledgment that his government inked a secret deal with the United States for allowing drone strikes on Pakistan territory might also be added to the litany of serious charges against him.  

Apart from his trials in courts, he is direly exposed to assassination attempts from Taliban and other religious extremists groups who hate him for his philosophy of “enlightened moderation that he pursued vigorously during his rule. 

During his tenure in power, the religious militants made at least five attempts on his life but each time he escaped. Of late Pervez Musharraf’s name has been placed on the Exit Control List which means he would remain in Pakistan till the finalization of legal cases. Who knows he may not be cleared and instead sentenced?  

Under the burgeoning civil society, hyping judicial activism, and an assertive media, it would not be possible for the army to come to the rescue of its former boss who is now a spent force and who looks like a liability rather than an asset. The old timers of the armed forces who might still have some soft corner for the former colleague and currently troubled former head of state, may also not assert to put their weight behind him.

It seems that Musharraf is now abandoned without any visible help from his own lobby. How would he emerge unscathed from this complex cobweb of crises can hardly be presaged by even the best of oracles.

I would end my current write-up by reproducing excerpts from my two previously written articles on Pervez Musharraf.

In the first article (October 2, 2010) “Musharraf May not Return to Pakistan so Soon”, I wrote the following lines: 
“However, as soon as he goes back to Pakistan, he would find himself like a bird in a cage. He will not be able to address the rallies, hold public meetings, lead processions, inspire and mobilize the masses. All this inputs are sine qua non for changing the status quo". 

"His confinement to the four walls, his inability to move around, and the lurking fear of being ambushed are the monumental challenges that he should be aware of. I cannot draw any other conclusion except to maintain that he is not going to Pakistan so soon. Yet his right to play politics as a citizen of Pakistan is incontrovertible and must be acknowledged.”

In the second article (August 11, 2010), “Musharraf Ready to Jump into the Political Arena” I made the following observation.

“According to reliable sources although Pervez Musharraf was eager to shuttle between London and Pakistan, yet he cannot venture going right now because of the formidable challenges and grave risks exposed to him. There is a lurking danger to his life from religious radical militants and from the Baluch avengers of Akbar Bugti’s assassination ascribed to Pervez Musharraf.

"Additionally he might be trapped in a maze of legal proceedings on issues such as storming of the Islamabad’s so-called Red Mosque in which scores of the resident female students were killed in the army action. He might be tried for suspending constitution and imposing emergency in November 2007. As such, he has a plethora of threats to his life during his stay in Pakistan”.

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