Pervez Musharraf: The final flight?

14 Jun

Retired Gen Pervez Musharraf’s desperation to take possibly his last flight out of the country has been increasing ever since the Sindh High Court ordered the removal of the over 14-month-old travel ban on him but gave the federal government 15 days to appeal its decision before the apex court.

The former military ruler has already requested the interior ministry to let him fly to Dubai, in view of the judgment, to visit his ailing mother and have his back treated. His lawyers have also filed a review petition with the Sindh High Court, seeking reduction in the number of days given to the government for appeal to three.

The general’s desperation is understandable. He is the first dictator facing the death penalty in a treason case — not for his ‘original sin’ but for imposing emergency on Nov 3, 2007 that led to the suspension of the Constitution, and the dismissal and detention of superior court judges. He is also facing charges in the Benazir Bhutto and Akbar Bugti killings as well as in other cases since his return to Pakistan to lead his party in last year’s elections.

His opponents fear that once out, he will not return home to face the cases. Hence, they want him to remain on the Exit Control List. His supporters scoff at this argument. “How can someone be restricted from travelling if he is neither convicted nor has detention orders against him? You can’t deny a person the fundamental right of movement because you think he’ll run away; the law does not work on presumptions,” notes one of his lawyers Chaudhry Faisal Hussain.

Both the courts and the government know this. Yet neither is ready to go soft on the dictator. Many insist it is one of those cases where nobody wants to accept responsibility because it involves a former army chief, and believe that the court judgment only confirms this.

The interior ministry has twice rejected Musharraf’s request to allow him to travel abroad, saying it is a decision for the courts. In December last, the Sindh High Court had directed him to contact the appropriate forum — the government — to get the ban lifted. “It’s like ping-pong,” says Hussain. “Nobody is willing to take responsibility [of letting Musharraf off the hook]. It shows the weaker side of the judiciary and the government both.”

Lawyers such as Tariq Mahmood, a former judge, agree. “There’s a lot of pressure on the courts from the ‘outside’… otherwise there’s no reason to put him on the ECL.” He went so far as to blame the apex court and the TV talk shows for bringing immense pressure on the interim government to put restrictions on the former general.

And this is precisely what political commentators like Hasan Askari Rizvi say of Nawaz Sharif’s dilemma. “If he doesn’t challenge the high court’s order, Nawaz Sharif will risk facing embarrassment. His political adversaries will try to exploit it. If he goes for an appeal or places new restrictions on Musharraf it could mean confrontation with the military, which wants the matter closed,” he argues.

Askari feels the premier is in a “difficult and problematic” situation. “How he handles it will largely influence his political future [as the issue has already soured his government’s ties with the military].”

Some believe that Nawaz Sharif has already done a deal with the military to allow the general who toppled his second government to leave the country. However, he wants the courts to lift the ban on him because of public and media pressure. His departure will remove a major source of the government’s friction with the powerful military establishment and let it focus on more pressing issues like the economy, energy and militancy.

But government ministers including Khawaja Asif and Saad Rafique deny any compromise. The risks of further straining ties with the military notwithstanding, there are indications the government would rather challenge the order than appear to have struck a deal with the military. The statements of the ministers testify to this.

“I think the government will try and stretch the issue as far as it is possible,” says Mohammad Waseem, a Lahore University of Management Sciences professor. But he considers the cases against Musharraf just an irritant in civil-military relations. “Both the government and the military know that nothing is going to happen to him. The judiciary too has been very accommodating vis-à-vis the former military ruler. I don’t see the issue straining civil-military relations.”

There’s almost a broad consensus that the apex court’s review will determine the entire course of cases against Musharraf if Sharif decides to approach it for the reversal of the Sindh High Court decision.

Waseem doesn’t think the Supreme Court has any option but to strike down the order. “The apex court had prompted the government to institute the [treason] case against him and it knows if the ban is lifted he will leave for good. Both the government and the judiciary will try to stretch the case against him.”

Musharraf’s counsel Hussain views it differently. “If the Supreme Court sets aside the high court’s decision, it will put a big question mark on its impartiality.”

In either case, it will again be for the apex court to rule whether Musharraf’s flight is to be delayed a little longer or cancelled. And the status of his flight will determine, even if to a limited extent, how government-military ties shape up.

Published in Dawn, June 14th, 2014

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Criticising: The General APML demands Khawaja Asif’s resignation

11 Apr

The All Pakistan Muslim League (APML) has protested against Defence Minister Khawaja Asif’s remarks criticising former military ruler Pervez Musharraf and demanded his immediate resignation on Thursday.

Following Asif’s statements reportedly questioning the “bravery” of Musharraf and ridiculing the ex-army chief, Chaudry Sarfraz Anjum Kahlon, political adviser to former president Musharraf, described the defence minister’s words as “unpatriotic, disturbing and in violation of his ministerial responsibilities”.

It is inevitable that Khawaja Asif’s presence as defence minister is detrimental to the morale of the armed forces, he said.

Minister for Railways Saad Rafiq  said he stands by his words about Pervez Musharraf. “I am a born political worker and have no regrets about my stance in opposition of the dictator or dictatorial regime”, he maintained.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 11th, 2014.

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Pervez Musharraf narrowly escapes as blast targets convoy in Islamabad

03 Apr

Musharraf was being shifted from the Armed Forces Institute of Cardiology (AFIC) to his farmhouse in Chak Shahzad when the explosion occurred just after the convoy crossed the bridge. According to Dawn News, sources said almost four to six kilograms of explosive material was planted in a pipeline near a footpath. The intensity of the blast caused about a foot deep hole in the ground. The police claimed that the attack was aimed at targeting Musharraf. However, no casualties were reported in the incident. Musharraf was safely at his farmhouse in Chak Shahzad.



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Chief judge in Parvez Musharraf case said not quitting job after ‘storming out’ of courtroom

29 Mar

Musharraf’s lawyer said the non-bailable arrest warrant against Musharraf did not stand any longer.

The chief judge in Pervez Musharraf’s treason trial Thursday dramatically stormed out of the courtroom in “disgust” after repeatedly being accused of bias against the former Pakistani military dictator but later clarified that he was not recusing himself from the case.

It was widely reported that Justice Faisal Arab, the chief of the three-member bench conducting the treason trial against 70-year-old Musharraf, had recused himself from the hearing following an exchange of arguments with the former president’s counsel Anwar Mansoor.

However, the judge later clarified that he had only walked out of Thursday’s proceedings and was not dissociating himself from the case completely.

The special court conducting the treason trial issued an order in the afternoon, signed by Justice Arab, dismissing all applications by Musharraf’s lawyers and stating that the former president should be brought to court if he fails to present himself for the next hearing on March 31.

“The conduct of Anwar Masoor Khan did not demonstrate the level of decency towards the court which is expected from a senior counsel. Disgusted by such an attitude, the court rose for the day,” the order issued said.

Earlier, Musharraf’s lawyer Ahmed Raza Kasuri told reporters outside the special court conducting the trial that the judge had disassociated himself from the case.

“Better late than never. I am glad that his (Justice Arab) conscience has finally risen,” Kasuri said, adding,
“Faisal Arab said he is distancing himself from the case. There are no shortage of judges in the country.”

Taking a step further, Kasuri had said the non-bailable arrest warrant against Musharraf did not stand any longer.

“The warrant does not stand. The court which issued the warrant no longer exists,” Kasuri said.

However, the special court ruled that its order for the government to arrest and produce Musharraf before it if he refused to appear on March 31 remained intact.

During Thursday’s hearing, Musharraf’s lawyers said Prosecutor Akram Sheikh should not be allowed to speak on the case until the court announces its decision regarding his appointment.

Justice Arab said the prosecutor will be allowed to speak in court. Musharraf’s advocates then said they were not happy with the court bench and that it was not neutral.

“The Special Court had already issued an order that this bench will try Musharraf and that decision should be respected,” Arab said.

Arab said if the lawyers think the bench was not neutral, he will separate himself from the bench.

He walked out of the courtroom after making the statements and was followed by the other members of the bench, Express News reported.




‘Musharraf counsel banking on arguments already declared null & void by LHC’: Akram Sheikh

11 Feb
 Head of Prosecution Team Barrister Akram Sheikh on Tuesday informed the Special Court that General (Retd) Pervez Musharraf’s counsel was busy in banking on arguments which had already been declared null and void by Lahore High Court. The three-member bench, headed by Justice Faisal Arab, and comprising Justice Tahira Safdar and Justice Yawar Ali resumed hearing of the case against Gen (retd) Pervez Musharaf for breaching the Coonstitution by imposing proclamation of Emergency on November 03, 2007. At the outset of hearing, Musharraf’s counsel Dr. Khalid Ranjha continued his argumets over the jurisdiction of the Special Court, constituted to hear the treason case.
He concluded his arguments by saying that the court has no authority to hear the case against Pervez Musharraf in the presence of Army Act 1952 which have a provision for trial of high treason offence for army personnel.
Responding to the arguments, Chief Prosecutor Akram Sheikh apprised the bench that Musharraf’s lawyer Dr. Khalid Ranjha was focusing on Army Act which was declared null by the Lahore High Court in 1977.
On this, Khalid Ranjha said that the Supreme Court has endorsed the Act in Sheikh Aftab Hussain case in 1999.
Barrister Akram Sheikh asked that how Musharraf’s counsel depend on the Amended Act which had already been declared unconstitutional in 1977.
He said that there was not a single word against high treason in the Army Act 1952, so that it was never mentioned in the any schedule of law and the said Act was for a specific area and for specific time.  For that reason, courts did not endorse the law, he added.
He said that the reference of law which courts have termed unconstitutional, was contempt of court.
Prosecutor Akram Sheikh said that high treason Act never remained part of the Army Act and it was introduced on April 30, 1977 which the high court termed unconstitutional on June 05, 1977 as the Act was introduced for proclamation of martial law in Lahore and other major cities.
During his arguments Dr. Khalid Ranjha said that the incumbent government, out of personal vendetta, had initiated trial against Musharraf under Article 6 of the Constitution, read with High Treason (Punishment) Act 1973.
The Special Court was established under Criminal Law Amendment (Special Court) Act 1976.
He said Army Act was applicable on an army man breaching the Constitution.
Ranjah also sought the transfer of Musharraf’s case to a military court, citing provisions of the Army Act.
He said that sections relating to high treason were included in the Army Act 1952 and added that under Article 245, the Army Act would even apply to civilians, living in areas where the army had been summoned.
He contended that the special court cannot conduct a trial of either a person who is in uniform or retired, adding that it is mandatory in law that military personal could only be court martialled under the Army Act if they commit any offence.
Later, the court adjourned hearing for Wednesday (February 12) by directing Prosecutor Akram Sheikh to continue his arguments.

Commandoes do not flee battlefield: Musharraf’s counsel

26 Jan

Ahmed Raza Kasuri, counsel for former president Pervez Musharraf, on Saturday said Musharraf was a commando and commandoes do not flee the battlefield.
Talking to reporters after meeting the Muttahida Qaumi Movement leaders at the Nine Zero, Kasuri said that some people were giving contradictory statements about the former president. Some people say that he was not sick and he was trying to avoid his treason trial, others say that his medical report was prepared in collusion with the army.
Kasuri said that Musharraf did not return to Pakistan under pressure, but he came back to safeguard the ideological and geographic boundaries of the country. He also said Musharraf knew that many cases were registered against him. He said that political victimisation was started right after Musharraf’s return to the country, adding that he wanted to contest May 11 general elections from four constituencies but he was disqualified under a conspiracy.
Kasuri said that Musharraf alone was being targeted under Article 6 and asserted that the action should be expanded to October 12, 1999 under the article so that action could be taken against all the involved elements.
He said that he fervidly prayed for the peace in the country at Quaid-e-Azam mausoleum before coming to Nine Zero.
On the occasion, MQM leader Nasreen Jalil said that Kasuri came to Nine Zero with the message of love. She said Pakistan never needed love, harmony, brotherhood and unity more than today. She said MQM chief Altaf Hussain has also emphasised this in his book ‘Falsafa-e-Muhabbat’.
She thanked Kasuri for visiting Nine Zero and assured him of full cooperation on behalf of the MQM.




Musharraf refused to act against al-Qaeda, Taliban: Robert Gates

12 Jan

Pakistan’s then powerful army chief Pervez Musharraf not only refused to take action against top al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders, but also struck a deal with the terror groups that led to their revival in Afghanistan, according to former US Defence Secretary Robert Gates.

In his forthcoming memoir, Gates writes that in February 2007 he submitted a set of specific requests to Musharraf including capture of three named Taliban and extremist leaders; and demanded that his government shut down the Taliban headquarters in Quetta and Peshawar.

But the then Pakistani ruler did not take any action.

“I gave him a list of specific actions we wanted Pakistan to take, actions we could take together, and actions the US was prepared to take alone. In private, Musharraf acknowledged Pakistani failures and problems on the border, but he asked me what a lone Pakistani border sentry could do if he saw thirty to forty Taliban moving toward the Afghan border,” he writes referring to his meeting with Musharraf in Islamabad in 2007.

“I responded, you should permit the sentry to warn us, and we will ambush the Taliban. He replied, ‘I like ambushes, we ought to be setting them daily.’ If only, I thought,” Gates writes in his book ‘Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War’.

During that private meeting on February 12, 2007, Gates writes he submitted to Musharraf a long list of requests to be done by Pakistan. Topping the list was capturing three named Taliban and extremist leaders, he writes, without disclosing the names of the three terrorist leaders.

During the meeting, he also sought permission from Pakistan to give the US expanded authority to take action against specific Taliban and al-Qaeda leaders and targets in Pakistan; dismantling insurgent and terrorist camps; and shutting down the Taliban headquarters in Quetta and Peshawar.

As per the list, the US also asked Musharraf to disrupt certain major infiltration routes across the border; enhance intelligence cooperation and streamline Pakistani decision making on targeting; and allowing expanded Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance flights over Pakistan.

“Musharraf kept a straight face and pretended to take all this seriously,” Gates, who was the defence secretary from December 2006 to July 2011, writes.

“While the Pakistanis would eventually deploy some 140,000 troops on their border with Afghanistan and endure heavy losses in fighting there, and while there was some modest progress on joint operations centers and border security stations, we’d still be asking for virtually all these me actions years later,” he writes.

Gates says that the real power in Pakistan is the military, and in November 2007 Musharraf handed over leadership of the army to General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani.

“At that point, I turned the Pakistani account over to Mike Mullen, who would travel to Pakistan regularly to talk with Kayani,” he writes.



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Pervez Elahi says PML-Q supporting Musharraf as he is in trouble

12 Jan

Former President General (R) Pervez Musharraf is in trouble therefore his party is extending moral support to him, said former chief minister of Punjab and Pakistan Muslim League (PML-Q) provincial President Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi while talking to a private TV channel on Saturday.

Chaudhry Pervez Elahi said that his party chief’s stance on trial of a single person is justified and if government wanted to conduct a transparent inquiry then all responsible for Nov 03, 2007, steps should be brought to book.

He denied any meeting of PML-Q leaders with Musharraf, however, said that due to one-sided action against him, his party has sympathies for the former president.

Pervez Elahi criticised the Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) led federal and provincial government for failure in all aspects to facilitate the masses, resolving problems faced by country and its people and taking the country out of prevailing situation.

Due to slackness of government electricity, gas crisis have intensified further, poverty, unemployment and skyrocketing inflation have deprived the common man of two time meal, he alleged.

He blamed that PML-N was not interested in holding local bodies (LB) polls from the very first day.

The former Punjab chief minister said that his party wish that Prime Minister’s Youth Business Loan Program (YBLP) will bear fruit but all programs launched by PML-N including yellow cab scheme and sasti roti failed badly.


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Treason trial of Musharraf: Ranjha briefs supporters

12 Jan

Dr Khalid Ranjha, one of the counsel for former President and army chief General Pervez Musharraf (Retd) in treason case, Saturday said that no army officer could be tried in any civil court without the permission of GHQ. While addressing the participants of Pakistan First Forum in Lahore, Dr Ranjha, who is a former federal minister, said although Prime Minister was himself a plaintiff in the Musharraf treason case, Cabinet was not taken into confidence before initiation of that case.

According to unconfirmed reports, the function was to be addressed by Musharraf through a video link from his hospital bed, but the hospital did not allow him to do so. A number of senior ex-army officers and activists of All Pakistan Muslim League were present on the occasion. Former army personnel opposed the initiation of treason case against Musharraf and said it would weaken the country and create an atmosphere of tension among institutions.

Rashid Qureshi, one of the close aides and spokesman for Musharraf, said that declaring a person a traitor who led the world’s best army was an insult of Pak army as well as the nation. He was of the view that a treason case against Musharraf was aimed at exacting revenge. According to him, the number of people at the function was 250, “although we had expected the participation of 200″. When asked whether Musharraf would appear before the court, Qureshi said that their lawyers and doctors would decide about it. Dr Ranjha further said that a single person could not abrogate the Constitution. “If Musharraf’s case moved forward, the names of some influential people would also appear,” he added.

INP adds: Senior Advocate Ahmad Raza Kasuri, one of the members of Musharraf’s legal team, said Saturday the former president would surely appear before the special court, if doctors allowed him. He told a private TV channel that he had chatted with people present near the former president inside the hospital and they had told him that the former army chief was still resting.

“Pervez Musharraf had appeared before the magistrate under an atmosphere of unrest and agitation and he has no problem in appearing before the special court too,” added the legal aid of Pervez Musharraf, saying his appearance in the special court depended on his health condition. Meanwhile, separate requests have been dispatched to army’s top leadership and the United Nations to conduct the trial of former President in a military court instead of a special court.

According to a private TV channel, Shah Jahan Advocate, in separate requests sent to Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee and Military Observer of the United Nations, stated that the federal government did not have right to try a former army chief in civilian special court for treason under Article 6. He further stated that Musharraf could only be tried in a military court under military laws if it deemed necessary.




Musharraf has become a headache for Nawaz Sharif: report

11 Jan

According to a Los Angeles Times report, General (retd) Musharraf’s days in Pakistan appear to be numbered now that the former strongman has spent nearly a week in a military hospital complaining of health problems while avoiding a court appearance on treason charges, the US newspaper report said.

Musharraf’s wife, who lives in Dubai, has asked the Interior Ministry for permission for him to travel abroad for medical treatment, and officials close to the country’s security services said he could depart within days.

“It is good for everybody — including Musharraf — that he would go out of the country,” said a senior security official in Islamabad, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the case.

While his possible destination remained unknown, analysts said the former president and army chief’s presence in Pakistan has become a political headache for the six-month-old civilian government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

By attempting for the first time to prosecute a former senior military figure, Sharif’s government has ignited tensions with an all-powerful army establishment that is loath to see a former leader humiliated in a civilian court, experts say.

Army leaders were said to be frustrated with Musharraf’s decision to return to Pakistan last year, but last week he was swiftly admitted to the military hospital in Rawalpindi complaining of chest pains. Musharraf had been due to appear in court on the treason charges that day after missing two earlier appearances due to what his lawyers termed security threats.

The timing of his hospitalisation, after he had appeared to be in good health in media appearances, fuelled widespread speculation that the military was determined not to let Musharraf stand trial.

Sharif “wants to use him as a bargaining chip to get more leverage against the military, but things could go worse if he keeps on going tough on Musharraf,” said Raza Rumi, a political analyst in Islamabad.

Analysts said that Musharraf’s departure for medical reasons increasingly seemed to be the only way to resolve the standoff between the government and the army over his fate.“Musharraf’s safety is part of the army’s core interests, while with every passing day it would become tougher for the government not to try him,” said Ayesha Siddiqa, a security and political analyst. “The political temperature would keep on rising as long as his case remained pending.”