Dice loaded against Musharraf

Daily Times Editorial

24th July, 2009

The Supreme Court on Wednesday summoned General (Retd) Pervez Musharraf to defend himself in a case brought to the court by the Sindh High Court Bar Association against the validity of his November 3, 2007 declaration of emergency and the issuing of the Provisional Constitution Order (PCO) which effectively ousted 60 judges from the higher judiciary of the country.

When the Court asked around if anyone would defend General Musharraf, no one came forward. A summons was issued to Gen Musharraf at his residence in Chak Shahzad after the Court came to the conclusion that this could be done despite there being no precedent. (General Yahya Khan was not summoned in the Asma Jilani Case after his fall from power.) Will Gen Musharraf come to the Court and defend himself?

Since it is not a criminal case, he doesn’t need to be present in person. Should he get his lawyers to defend him? The news is that he is consulting. We believe that his lawyers should advise him to do so. The reasons are as follows. The Supreme Court is not a kangaroo court and a case unfolding in it will be heard by the entire nation, and if there are any mitigating factors in favour of Gen Musharraf they will be highlighted for all to note. Given the one-sidedness of the atmosphere in the country, this is necessary.

Everybody thinks that Gen Musharraf is indefensible. The atmosphere in the country is completely anti-Musharraf. Suddenly nothing that he ever did was right. Those who once defended his actions in the realm of foreign policy and inside a rapidly Talibanising country are silenced today by the sheer weight of the hatred that everyone feels for him. Good rational citizens have gone on record as saying that he should be awarded “exemplary punishment” although this is not a case asking that this be done.

If ancient Greek historian Herodotus — who sought hubris among the heroes of history as the cause of their fall — were to examine the role of Gen Musharraf in his eight years of rule, he would praise him for some things and lament his acts of hubris (“outrageous arrogance” in Greek) for bringing about his downfall. He would differentiate between the “tyrants” — in Greek, undemocratic rulers were called tyrants — of the past and Musharraf as the tyrant of today. He would soon discover that General Ayub Khan, General Yahya Khan and General Zia-ul Haq were let off because their regimes had been “indemnified” by later elected parliaments; Musharraf’s is not.

Musharraf had hubris that stood out a mile. He staged Kargil as army chief, stamping himself with rashness of judgement. After coming to power, he rashly planned the permanent ouster from the political arena of the PPP and the PMLN, the latter after splitting it. After this act of hubris, he ruled carefully till he reached a crisis of relationship with a PCO-ed chief justice of the Supreme Court of Pakistan who had become “activist”. In the full light of the media, whom he had nurtured into an unprecedented dominance, General Musharraf was rejected by the nation.

The process of rejection of General Musharraf began in March 2007. It was accelerated by a media-supported lawyers’ movement that soon attracted civil society organisations to its ranks. After the 2008 elections, the forces that he had sought to defeat were in the ascendant and were baying for his blood. He had to leave the country because of threat of criminal cases against him. Now the Supreme Court which is listening to the case will have to show unprecedented neutrality and disregard the personal affront shown to it by him earlier. The government is unwilling to defend him fearing loss of public support. The media wants him not only defeated in the case but prosecuted for all sorts of crimes that he may have committed or not, including one of “enslaving” the country to America.

Important, if not pivotal, to the case, is the role of the Pakistan Army; and it should be acknowledged with praise. It stood aside from the vendettas of General Musharraf after he ceased to be army chief, persuaded the government to let Chief Justice Chaudhry be reinstated, and is today acting in breach of the army’s not-so-immaculate conduct in the past. Not even justice is benevolent if its rulings are immoderate. Unfortunately, far too many elements in the country seem to be seeking revenge in the guise of justice. But justice is deterrent; revenge never is. *

Second Editorial: An American ‘defence umbrella’ in the Gulf?

In her latest statement, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said that her country was ready to help its Gulf allies establish a “defence umbrella” if Iran did not back down over its nuclear programme.

The US and its European allies are moving towards more sanctions against Iran if it doesn’t comply with IAEA requirements by the end of this year. The proposal of a “defence umbrella” is being aired by Ms Clinton in the absence of any public request by the states that are sought to be defended. The Gulf states are clearly disinclined to see America taking any kind of punitive action against Iran even though they may be upset over the immoderate rhetoric of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

The Arab rulers in the Gulf want status quo with no war. They are put off by the prospect of an Israeli attack on Iran. Most of them have a modus vivendi with Iran, with sanctions-busting trade arrangements. Qatar, where Americans have their operations headquarters, is the most pro-Iran emirate with a ruler willing to become a go-between in the US-Iran stand-off. In Bahrain, where a US fleet of warships is based, the local population is overwhelmingly Shia. Iran would be hard put to attack any of these small states, unless they provoke it by accepting a defence umbrella from the US.

Finally, the outcome of the current crisis will be determined by Iran. The Gulf states will take their cue from how Iran decides to behave towards them. Most of them have up to 30 percent well-integrated Shia population. And Iran cannot attack Saudi Arabia because of the location there of two holy cities that the Shia revere as cities of Hassan and Hussain. *

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