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What Does the Musharraf Verdict Mean for Pakistan?

  • Muhammad Akbar
  • Feb, 2020
  • 155
  • Pakistan Judiciary

The sentencing to death of Musharraf has been welcomed by many Pakistanis.

Waris runs a tea shop is Pakistan's southwestern Balochistan province. On a calm Friday in December, he was busy making tea and talking to two regular customers about the Musharraf verdict - a death sentence handed down against the former dictator and military ruler, retired General Pervez Musharraf, who was found guilty of treason.

Waris welcomed the verdict. He said Musharraf, among other things, had derailed the country from the path of peace, prosperity, and development. Waris suggested that Musharraf be hanged so that a new era may begin in Pakistan.

But Waris, an ethnic Punjabi with little education, had no knowledge as to why Musharraf was sentenced. Nor had he read the detailed judgment in Musharraf's treason case in the media. To Waris’ knowledge, everything bad that has happened in Pakistan happened under Musharraf’s tenure. This, not any legal questions over the sanctity of the constitution, is why Waris suggested that the former dictator be hanged.

In its judgment, the special court directed law enforcement to apprehend Musharraf, who is currently receiving medical treatment in Dubai, to ensure the death sentence is carried out. It further stated that if Musharraf is found dead beforehand, “his corpse [should] be dragged to D-Chowk, Islamabad, Pakistan, and be hanged for three days.”

It was the first time in Pakistan’s history that a court sentenced a former military ruler to death (in absentia) for treason. Like Waris, other Pakistanis have welcomed the verdict, despite the fact that Pakistan’s current government and military have reacted negatively.

The charges against Musharraf stem from his 2007 imposition of emergency rule and suspension of the country’s constitution. At the time, he had been ruling Pakistan since 1999 after staging a military coup.

The sentence is unlikely to be carried out against Musharraf, as he is currently not in the country. In 2016, he was allowed to leave Pakistan on medical grounds and it is unlikely that he will come back to the country to face the death sentence. Despite that, independent Pakistani analysts are of the view that for Pakistan, which has been ruled by the military for much of its history, the Musharraf verdict is a good step toward a true democracy. To this day, the military is calling the shots in the country, and it has never hesitated to brand critical politicians and journalists as “traitors,” accusing them of furthering foreign agendas in Pakistan. This time, a special court itself sentenced Musharraf, a former military ruler, in a high treason case.

In Pakistan, Musharraf is generally the most loathed leader after former dictator General Zia-ul-Haq (1977-88), who pushed Pakistan into backwardness by introducing religious fundamentalism in the country. Zia helped the Mujahideen fight Soviet troops in Afghanistan with the financial support of the United States and Saudi Arabia,

Decades later, Musharraf reluctantly joined the United States in 2001 for its war against the Taliban in Afghanistan, a conflict that still continues today. Due to Musharraf’s short-sighted policies, Pakistan was pushed into the Afghan quagmire. The country has witnessed attack after attack, in which tens of thousands of Pakistanis have reportedly lost their lives. Today, religious extremism is the biggest threat to Pakistan’s security.

In Balochistan, Musharraf ordered a fifth military operation, which killed Balochistan’s former chief minister and governor Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti in 2006. That, in turn, fueled the fifth Baloch insurgency in Balochistan. The killing of Akbar Bugti created deep mistrust between Balochs and the state of Pakistan, and they are still at loggerheads with each other. The conflict between the Balochs and state is still ongoing in Balochistan, Pakistan's largest province.

Musharraf resigned the presidency in 2008, unpopular and facing impeachment changes. He went into self-imposed exile until August 14, 2010, when he formed his own political party, the All Pakistan Muslim League. The name of the party was taken from the original All Pakistan Muslim League, which struggled in an undivided India for a separate Muslim country.

After the formation of his own All Pakistan Muslim League, Musharraf arrived in Pakistan to contest the general elections in 2013. Accompanied by his wife, Sehba Musharraf, he was welcomed at Karachi Airport by a handful of supporters. But instead of continuing his political activities, he had to live under tight security in Pakistan. The courts barred him from standing in the elections, and then he became embroiled in several legal cases, including one over the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto....

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