“Treachery, though at first very

cautious, in the end betrays itself.”

–Livy

The decision of the government to set up a special court for the trial of former dictator Pervez Musharraf, in a high treason case will become a moment of truth not only for the army generals but also for the democratically elected government and the judiciary. For some, the timing of the decision could not have been worse because it was announced when serious sectarian clashes rocked parts of the country specifically in Rawalpindi where not only precious lives were lost but property worth millions was also torched.

To divert attention from this unfortunate happening, the government may have acted without proper consideration thereby resulting in a decision that may come back and haunt them. Every person who believes in democratic dispensation would welcome the decision by the government to make all those accountable who violated the constitution and as such deserve no mercy. However, in the ongoing case it is not entirely proper to single out General Pervez Musharraf because this amounts to selective justice. Some blokes in the media who deem themselves as spokespersons for the judiciary are expressing themselves freely without being aware of the relevant laws and the political ramifications that are likely to come out during the course of this trial. The government’s decision to try Pervez Musharraf for imposing emergency on November 3rd, 2007 will answer only half of the question. The army had struck on 12th of October 1999 and deposed a democratically elected government. This happened after Nawaz Sharif tried to replace Musharraf with another general. The army rejected the decision of the Prime Minister. No one was prepared to believe that General Pervez Musharraf acted in isolation and that he had no collaborators either in the military or in the civilian setup. Therefore to try one person, would negate the very essence of this momentous trial that is likely to leave a long term imprint on the landscape of this country.

The PML-N government and the three member judges court setup must remember that when they conduct General Musharraf’s trial, they will also be subjects of trial because not only the entire country, but the entire international community will attentively follow the proceedings. Already questions are being raised about the resolution passed in parliament that endorsed the actions of the former dictator and what about the decision taken by justice Irshad Hassan Khan who validated the coup of 1999. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court at that time besides validating the action of General Musharraf also empowered him to amend the constitution which was never asked in the petition filed before the justices. Simply translated, this would mean, that if a sin was committed by Mr Pervez Musharraf, the judiciary of the time was with him. On the bench besides other judges there was the most honorable present chief justice of the Supreme Court, Mr Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry. What happens if General Pervez Musharraf demands that all the judges who validated his illegal act of 1999 should be summoned in the present trial to answer some pertinent questions that are bound to be raised by the three member tribunal instituted by the Federal government.

The defense team would be well within its rights to demand that all the Generals, the Prime Minister and his cabinet members who were a part of the consultative process should be summoned. So that the special court is able to dig deep and find out the real truth. If this happens, then nobody will be able to put the lid back on the pandora’s box and it may become impossible for the government to put an end to certain information and evidence which could result in the sapping of morale of different institutions in the country. In case Musharraf is indeed tried alone it would smack of personal vendetta and would defeat the very purpose of the trial which otherwise means that finally the institution of democracy has become so powerful that it can call for accountability of all those who err on the wrong side of the law. One therefore expects, the government will tread very cautiously and at the same time the three member special court will ensure that issues relating to the security of this country are not raised in a way where it could damage national interest and create despondency amongst the rank and file of the armed forces.

The media will also play a very important role during the course of this trial and if some of the blokes who are already crying for blood are not reined in by some code of conduct, the damage could come much earlier than expected which will not be conducive for the democratic dispensation and may also create a rift between important pillars of the government.

One hopes that in the end prudence and sanity will prevail and no irresponsible act would be done by any party which could further damage an already tottering economy of Pakistan. It would have been much better if another method could have been put in place where those who violated the constitution by imposing martial law could be taken to task without creating the stir that has already been created in this country. Mr Nawaz Sharif should understand that he has already enough on his plate and the addition of this case at this juncture at the present point in time was never going to be desirable whatever the reasons the government may have up its sleeves.

 The writer has been associated with various newspapers as editor and columnist.

zarnatta@hotmail.com