Newspapers have been publishing reports for the past several days that former president and army chief Gen Pervez Musharraf is likely to be banished to some unknown country, for which purpose procedural formalities are being completed these days.

Some reports suggest that the general, detained at his Chak Shahzad farmhouse under a court order, will leave the country before the new setup takes over. In other words, now it’s just a matter of days.

Maybe these reports are true, maybe they are not.

In case the former president is exiled just to make the new prime minister, Mian Nawaz Sharif, feel comfortable, it will be very unfortunate. It will solve no problem facing the country. And if the banishment of Mr Sharif was wrong, so will be Musharraf’s. Two wrongs don’t make a right.

There are several cases of serious nature pending against the former president. They include the detention of the superior courts judges, assassination of Benazir Bhutto and Baloch leader Nawab Akbar Bugti, operation against Lal Masjid, as a result of which a large number of people had been killed.

Unless these cases are decided one way or the other, there will be no justification for anyone to facilitate the banishment of the former president. If he is sent abroad, these cases will remain undecided and the status of Gen Musharraf will always remain that of an “accused”. He has been denying his role in all these unfortunate incidents and should be afforded an opportunity for a fair trial. His banishment may satisfy the ego of some people, but not the other affected families.

Even if some foreign country is using its influence to have Gen Musharraf taken out of the country, the government (caretaker or the incoming) should not give in to such pressures. The former president must face a trial – and all the “co-accused” should be no exception. All those Gen Musharraf says were involved in taking the impugned decisions should face the law.

If judges cannot proceed against some of the “co-accused” only because they are more powerful than the law, then judiciary should stop claiming that it is an independent institution and provides justice to everyone without fear or favour.

In the eyes of law everybody is equal, no matter what his status.

The assertion that Gen Musharraf’s trial and the humiliating treatment he is being given is creating unrest among the armed forces should not be a consideration for the judiciary.  Judges are duty-bound to do justice “even if the heavens fall”, as Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhhammad Chaudhry has consistently been saying.

The PML-N president had made a commitment with the people of Pakistan that he would bring the killers of “my sister” Benazir Bhutto to justice. And now that he will be taking over as prime minister after a few days, he should honour his commitment.

The matter was probed by a UN commission and then the Scotland Yard, but the real killers have not so far been apprehended.  Maybe some of them are holding important positions in the government.

Whatever the case, the incoming prime minister should give priority to this case. And if Gen Musharraf is allowed to leave the country for whatever reason, it would not be possible for anyone to take the case to its logical conclusion.

Living in exile is very painful. Mian Nawaz Sharif and other family members had been consistently claiming that they signed no agreement for their banishment. They also said that they had been sent to Saudi Arabia “against” their wishes.

The Musharraf government continued to claim that the Sharifs had left the country of their sweet will, but the latter continued to deny it.  

Then came a time when Mr Sharif flew from Jeddah to London for returning to Pakistan. 

At this stage, then Saudi Intelligence chief Prince Muqrin came to Pakistan and held a news conference at which he waved the agreement which barred Mr Sharif from returning to Pakistan for 10 years.

The PML-N chief at a news conference in London said the agreement was for five years, not ten. And when the former prime minister made the confession about the agreement’s validity for five years, he had already spent seven years out of Pakistan.

The Sharifs should learn from their personal experience of living in exile.  Even if they were wronged, they should not try to settle scores with Gen Musharraf. The courts should take the cases against the former president to their logical conclusions, no matter what the final outcome.