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‘Comrades In Arms’ Resolve To Back Ex-Army Chief Musharraf

ISLAMABAD/LAHORE (MAMOSA Report), JAN 13 – Some 500 hundred ex-servicemen, from the rank of general (including three-star and two-star generals) to major, assembled in Lahore city on Saturday to back former president and ex-army chief Pervez Musharraf who is facing charges of high treason in a special court constituted by the Nawaz Government.

The former army personnel voiced support for the former military ruler and decided to set in motion a sustained movement for his protection. They decided to continue to get together to express concern over Musharraf’s trial in different parts of the county – possibly in Karachi the next time, reported The Nation report said.

The meeting was hosted by “Pakistan First” – being represented by Rashid Qureshi, former director general of Inter-Services Public Relation (ISPR) and a close aide of Musharraf.

The former army chief and head of the All Pakistan Muslim League (APML)  was not allowed to address the retired army officials at Lahore through video link on Saturday. The former president is admitted to Armed Forces Institute of Cardiology (AFIC) in Rawalpindi.

Musharraf was scheduled to address the retired army personnel who had gathered at the local hotel through video link but the doctors at AFIC did not allow him to do so.

Later, lawyers of the former president addressed the gathering and apprised them about the Musharraf case.

The overall impression of speeches and slogans of a charged section of retired soldiers present at the gathering, was their concern over declaring Musharraf, an ex-army officer a traitor, holding his trial by a civil court and treating him in a manner that was conveying negative vibes to the military.

The gathering alleged that Musharraf’s treason trial was out of personal vendetta of PML-N government and outgoing chief justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry.

The gathering of retired exservicemen also consisted three-star and two-star generals. These included former Punjab governor Khalid Maqbool, former naval chief Shahid Karimullah, Israr Ghumman, Afzal Muzaffar, Arshad Mahmood, Sajjad Akram, Zafar Hayat, Muhammad Ali, Shahid Hamid, Bajwa, Sarfraz, Sikandar, former IB DG Ijaz Shah, Javed Alam and Zafar, according to the news report.

Dr Khalid Ranjha, who is a member of Musharraf’s defense team and served as law minister during former PML-Q government during the military ruler’s regim, enlightened the gathering on various basic points relating to the treason case. Ex-navy chief Shahid Karimullah presented viewpoint of participants and their resolve to defend the former army chief.

Admiral Karimullah, who after retirement in 2005, also served as Pakistan’s ambassador to Saudi Arabia till 2009, described Musharraf as a great person whose training and character did not admit of disloyalty, dishonesty and act against the national interests. He reminded of the time when the former military ruler visited Saudi Arabia during his ambassadorial service and how cordially the Saudi King had treated him to the extent of praying for his life and protection.

Karimullah promised full support to Musharraf, and vowed not to stay complacent, but to continue with struggle for his protection. He said it was indeed a big concern for a soldier when his/her army chief was dubbed a traitor.

He asked the ex-servicemen in attendance to use the social media for voicing justice with Musharraf.

Dr Khalid Ranjha shed light on the history of high treason law starting from 1973 and its gradual development corresponding with that of the Army Act, 1952, which, according to him, had co-opted to its side, treason trial if serviceman perpetrated it in uniform.

In his view, GHQ permission was necessary if treason trial of Musharraf had to be initiated on the civil side, otherwise it merited a military court, he added. It was necessary and in the interest of prestige and dignity of the institution of the armed forces, he added.

He pointed out that the prime minister’s personal vendetta was involved in the matter, and said four governments had passed since the alleged offense was committed, but none took up the matter. He said the prime minister was a direct complainant in the case when the law provided that only the federal government was competent to become a complainant [which means the prime minister can institute the case only after consultation with the Cabinet and approval of the president which were missing in the instant case].

Ranjha said the bench had been constituted through the order of the former CJP when he himself was allegedly an affected party. This all had created doubts about the trial, he added.

During the question-answer session, a former colonel grilled the media for maligning Musharraf and holding his trial on screen. Irked over it, newsmen present at the meeting wanted to present the media viewpoint and resolved not to calm down until an apology was extended by the organizers and the colonel himself. Subsequently, services of the media were acknowledged as meritorious as that of army personnel.

Meanwhile the Special court has said that the country’s ‘Criminal Procedure Code’ will apply in former military ruler Pervez Musharraf’s treason trial. As a result, an out-of-court settlement (plea bargain) looks all the more unlikely thereby temporarily dashing the hopes of Musharraf’s supporters, who were expecting the former army chief to be allowed to leave the country for medical treatment.

DW’s Islamabad correspondent, Shakoor Rahim, says that after this decision the court can issue Musharraf’s arrest warrant if he fails to comply with its orders. He also says that it is likely that the court will formally indict Musharraf on January 16 when he presents himself at the tribunal.

Majid Siddiqui, a senior journalist in Karachi, claims that the application of the “Criminal Code Procedure” to Musharraf’s case is a serious blow which has blocked “the general’s road to freedom.”

“I don’t think that the incumbent government is in a position to strike a deal with Musharraf now. The Criminal Code Procedure won’t allow it, and Musharraf must go to court,” Siddiqui told DW, adding that the former ruler was “in deep trouble.”

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