At this unique juncture of our chequered history when we have got the rare opportunity of holding accountable a dictator and a usurper – who for his personal gains repeatedly trampled the Constitution, ruined every state institution and had his hands stained with the blood of innocent people – certain elements are opposing the trial of General (R) Pervez Musharraf under Article 6 of the Constitution.
They have their own logic and argument. “We are being advised to forget and forgive Musharraf and think about the future. We are being warned that the moment of accountability of army dictators has not yet arrived and if we committed the ‘mistake’ of trying and punishing Musharraf for high treason, it would lead Pakistan to another martial law,” they argued.
Admitting that the list of Musharraf’s crimes is too long to be counted and too serious to be ignored, they suggest the best “punishment” for him would be to ignore him and forget him for all times to come.
Of late former Senator Farhatullah Babar, presently media adviser to President Asif Ali Zardari, also opposed physical execution of Musharraf and supported the philosophy of “punishment in perpetuity”. He said that Musharraf should be castigated, reprimanded and disgraced for what he had done in the past, which, according to him, is the example of ‘punishment in perpetuity.’
Babar explained that the punishment for Musharraf started when he doffed his military uniform. “He was further agonized when all the elected assemblies of Pakistan denounced him and sought his exit from the Presidency,” the spokesman said and added that Musharraf was then chased out of the Presidency. Lastly, he said, the July 31 judgment of the Supreme Court that declared the Nov 3, 2007 acts as illegal and unconstitutional, further disgraced Musharraf. He suggested that instead of dragging him in streets, Musharraf should be punished in perpetuity and made a symbol of regret, shame and horror.
However, those advocating such punishment for Musharraf and asking us to forget him once and for all are possibly not aware of the fact that the dictator is presently busy in merrymaking in Europe. Showing no remorse of what he has done to Pakistan, he instead is still dreaming of becoming Pakistan’s president once again. He continues to think very high of himself and aspires to be presented the Presidency yet again in a platter.
Farhatullah Babar, who is waiting for Musharraf’s humiliation and wants to see him rueing his past, is perhaps unaware of the fact that the ousted dictator left London for cruising in Europe after the historic Supreme Court verdict. If we look at Musharraf’s recent media statements, he didn’t seem repenting his past mistakes at all, or that he is worried about his future in the wake of the apex court decision. Then what’s the meaning of “punishment in perpetuity” and pushing him into oblivion if the man being “punished” is enjoying himself fully without even a shred of remorse or fear.
If there is no need for physically punishing people like Musharraf despite their involvement in the most serious crime in our statutes books, then we should re-consider even having courts, police and jails. If a dictator, who abrogated the constitution, got killed Nawab Akbar Bugti and many others, was responsible for the Lal Masjid gory massacre and sold Pakistanis to the United States for dollars is not awarded any punishment, then what is the justification to try and prosecute an ordinary killer, a thief, a robber, and a kidnapper. They should also be let go scot free and given the punishment in perpetuity. If a traffic law violator is punished, then why the violator of the Constitution should be pardoned. Won’t it open the door to lawlessness and anarchy in the country?
There is a need to ponder that if physical punishment is not important for the one who has committed the most serious crime of high treason then why the authors of the 1973 Constitution during Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s tenure made Article 6 part of the Constitution and proposed high treason charges against those who abrogate this sacred document. If ‘punishment in perpetuity’ is such a great philosophy then why did Zulfikar Ali Bhutto also got enacted through Parliament the High Treason (Punishment) Act 1973, which says that the violators of Article 6 would be awarded death penalty or life term. The law also explains as to who would register the case involving high treason charges, which court would hear the case and which government agency would investigate the matter.
It’s so strange that the elected prime ministers here are controversially sent to gallows, sentenced to imprisonment and got involved in fake plane hijacking case but when it comes to them nobody talks of “punishment in perpetuity”. Where were the preachers of the “punishment in perpetuity” and those advocating the forgive and forget policy for Musharraf, when people’s representatives were kept in jails for years on corruption charges, and some of them were pushed against the wall to the limit that they had to flee the country? Violation of the Constitution of the country is the biggest crime, but strangely amnesty for such a big criminal is being sought on one pretext or the other.
There is also an argument subtly given to save Musharraf from being fixed by saying that why should Musharraf be hanged when no punishment was given to the other past dictators –
General Ayub, General Yahya and General Zia. It really sounds strange. If no punishment was awarded to the past dictators, the usurper in hand should also be left unpunished. If this policy is adopted, we would never be able to move forward, instead we would continue our backward journey till the time we really reach the Stone Age based on the principle of might is right.
Why shouldn’t we try Musharraf and punish him physically and give symbolic punishment and condemnation to the late dictators through parliamentary resolution? A serious thought could be given to the idea of observing a day at national level every year to condemn dictatorship. On this day, the nation should express its hatred towards dictatorship in a style that military interventions should be seen as a curse and an act of abhorrence.
At a time when the Supreme Court of Pakistan has declared the act of a dictator unconstitutional and the majority in Pakistan desires to make an example out of Musharraf, those suggesting to ignore and forget him or arguing in favour of “punishment in perpetuity” are requested to let the nation move forward, and not push it back to the past. Had the dictators been punished in the past, we would not have seen the fateful day of October 12, 1999 when Musharraf fearlessly trampled the constitution of Pakistan. But now when we have got a chance to punish a living dictator and make him an example for the future dictators, we are being warned that it would pave the way for the future Musharrafs.
Such ‘pragmatic’ voices are requested to give us a break. Rest assured nothing adverse is going to happen if we stick to the rule of law. What we are being advised by the pro-dictator pragmatists is like pushing the Pakistani nation to the pre-Muhammad (PBUH) age of ignorance when the powerful and mighty were not punished and only common people were taken to task.
We are the followers of that great and last Prophet of Allah who, referring to the age of ignorance, had said, “By God, if Muhammad’s daughter Fatima had committed a theft, her hands would have been slashed.” But, apathetically, we have forgotten that golden principle of rule of law that was given to us 1,400 years ago while the West has achieved a welfare society based on equality and justice for its citizens by acting on these very principles. Isn’t it true that former British premier Tony Blair had to go to the police station himself to get his son bailed out in a liquor drinking case. The wife of the same British prime minister was made to pay fine for travelling in an underground rail without ticket. Ironically such examples of rule of law are today the hallmark of the western societies alone.
The movement launched on March 9, 2007,
for the independence of judiciary and rule of law has given this nation and the country a new direction. By treading this new path, we could achieve a new milestone in our history. We have already witnessed a few unprecedented events on March 16, 2009 and July 31, 2009, in our country which had no match in the history of Pakistan. We were also threatened and warned of gloomy scenarios by the “pragmatists” during the movement for the independence of the judiciary. At times we were also laughed at and labelled as “crazy” people who ask for the moon without being aware of the ground realities. But with the grace of Allah Almighty, this nation has achieved the “impossible” by the force of its “craziness”, thus securing its future and rekindling hopes for prosperity and the rule of justice. If Chilean dictator Augusto Jose Ramon Pinochet Ugarte could be extradited from Britain to present him before his country’s court, then why can’t Musharraf be?