No society can progress if it does not have order. Many things contribute towards the sustenance of order in society but the three that eat it up the most are — unequal distribution of power, weak institutions, and the failure and helplessness of the order itself to adjust when the circumstances change. Obviously order never adjusts itself and the “lack of adjustment” remains most essentially a human (leadership) failure. In the post-Musharraf era, there has been a phenomenal change in the identity of both politics and the military in this country. A gradual balance of power between the politics and military returned and despite some “political tremors”, politics, on the whole, moved forward and the assemblies for the first time in the history of Pakistani politics completed their tenures. Politics also engaged in executing some constitutional amendments and the distribution of power concentrated in one person (the president) was handed over to the Parliament.

After 2008, there were political, economic as well as security issues but the pillars of the state were working within the boundaries defined by the Constitution and there was this fair and admirable return of the balance of power between the institutions in this country. With a few minor exceptions here and there, all institutions worked within the boundaries established by the Constitution. Underpinning this balance of power was the media which now defined “the changed circumstances” in which the order had to operate. Unlike the past nothing could be shelved or brushed under the carpet and nothing that politics or the military did could be hidden from the watchful eyes of the media. The forced circumstances had brought in a change of order — forced because of the War on Terror which highlighted our huge internal and external vulnerabilities and if it was not for resilience and sacrifices of our law enforcement agencies and our entire society which gave rise to our newborn nationalism, we couldn’t have won this war.

If the order in the society could have changed for good and it had adjusted favourably to the changing circumstances, we would have benefited a lot as a nation. The victory in the War on Terror was giving us an opportunity — it was becoming the seam that was stitching the nation together with the state. But those driving the order made the mistake of not adjusting to it; instead of cashing on the opportunity and promoting good civic nationalism we continued on our path of sustaining our politics through bad ethnic nationalism. The order that could have evolved was allowed to decay.

When democracy decays it goes backwards and when it does that it takes the country with it. The problem of this country was not what General Musharraf did or did not. The problem of this country was when the opportunity had come knocking on the door of politics it didn’t extract the benefit of the “changed circumstances”. It is said that when the rulers uphold their bargain (the bargain of ruling in the public interest) in the social contract that binds them with the ruled, then national identity supersedes all other identities (religious, ethnic, sectarian, and tribal). The drivers of the order (democracy) in the changed circumstances had their political cart driving the military horse. All they needed to do was drive it well, even this they couldn’t do and motivated by greed, religion and power, the drivers failed to adjust and made mistakes. The result of those mistakes is pretty much evident in the social, political, economic and security conditions of this country. Had the mistakes not been committed, would the two major political parties that showcase “dynastic rule” have many members of their families facing corruption charges, with few in jail, others on bail and many having reached the safe shores of Britain?

Today when you mention the word Britain in Pakistan it does not bring to mind Brexit but Oliver Cromwell. This is because of paragraph 66 of the famous ruling by the special court on General Musharraf’s treason case. Before the Honourable Judge of the special court in his judgment quoted from British history in his famous paragraph, our now-retired chief justice of the Supreme Court had done the same in the detailed judgment of General Bajwa’s extension case by writing, “I understand that democratic maturity of our nation has reached a stage where this court can proclaim that as declared by Chief Justice Sir Edward Coke of England in Commendam case in the year 1616 regarding powers of King James I, ‘However high you may be, the law is above you’.”

One person’s hero is another person’s villain — a reality that all of us are well aware of but when the judgments of the judges, including some of the superfluous remarks that don’t respect this reality, then create more confusions and divisions instead of harmony and unity in the country. General Musharraf had his flaws and his inconsistencies and as much as many hate him for his “anti-democracy” there are many that still love him for his brand of patriotism, his unwavering loyalty and his selfless and restless energy all utilised for the creation of better democracy and a better country. Not tried for his original sin of abrogating the Constitution in 1999 for reasons best known to our judiciary, General Musharraf was tried for a lesser crime of holding the Constitution in abeyance in 2007.

Eventually, the special court didn’t touch the subject of “aiders and abettors” and in a charged up judicial environment of “justice hurried is justice buried” gave a judicial verdict that many senior lawyers like Aitzaz Ahsan are looking at as “judicial nonsense”.

Our Islamic history is filled with the examples of generosity and sympathetic treatment and none is more evident than the one conducted by a Muslim general of the 12th century, Sultan Salahuddin Ayyubi, who after 88 years of Christian control on the city of Jerusalem, retook it from them. He relived the moments of the Conquest of Jerusalem by Caliph Umar in 638AD and pardoned the entire presence of 60,000 men, women and children in the city. The judges would do well to give examples of what our religion teaches us — examples of generosity and sympathetic treatment instead of examples that speak of inhumanity and cruelty.

Lastly, Oliver Cromwell “whose body was dug out, beheaded and hanged for three days” was selected as one of the 10 greatest Britons of all time in a 2002 BBC poll. Surely, history has a funny way of coming back and biting those who try to manipulate it. Maybe tomorrow history judges General Musharraf as a great hero and his “facilitators” as the actual villains — who knows?