By Irshad Salim
News cameramen had gathered near the residence of former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf in Islamabad, hoping to get one-liners from the ex-general when he would come out. But he didn’t. Pakistani police said they had arrested the former military ruler over the 2007 raid of the Lal Masjid (Red Mosque) in capital Islamabad, a day after a court granted him bail in two separate cases, and his lawyers had said he was able to travel within Pakistan and abroad (after six months under house arrest). He now remains sequestered in his pristine Chuck Shahzad home that has been declared a sub-jail. So what happened?
The ex-commando and his loyalists may actually be wanting him to pass through the due process of law in Lal Masjid case, so that the bloody stigma attached with his regalia can go away, including any and all other cases that may have been stacked up against him for another day. There is a method to the ex-General’s madness it seems.
He has no plans to either exit or leave the field it so appears, and he has been saying so daringly in the glare of the unfriendly electronic media since the day he stepped his foot back on Pakistani soil.
He’s confident that the constellation of forces, the congruency of events, and the impending permanent presence of the world’s most vociferous democracy in Islamabad’s backyard won’t let any unconstitutional and unlawful dispensation of justice be slapped on his face, as such would dice the crap table in his favor to the detriment of all national and international stakeholders.
We should not forget that the ex-president is an avowed Bridge player who has betted many a times ‘No trump’, and according to background information available, won fairly many times.
Being a defender in these cases, and like any prudent individual, he and his attorneys would definitely hang their hats on the weaknesses and shortcomings in the plaintiff’s arguments while furthering their arguments, if it at all goes that far, on the lacunae, weaknesses and loopholes in the law as it exists.
We should also not discount the geo-strategic and regional developments crystallizing in our backyard. Stability in the region, continuance of democracy and rule of law in Pakistan, and not instability or khakis in ‘the most dangerous place on earth’, are the buzz words being oft repeated among the international as well as the national stakeholders, as the entire region stands on the crossroad of becoming a supernova of economic growth and opportunities – thus outweighing the polemical chicaneries which we get to witness on the electronic media daily these days with precise alacrity.
General Kayani’s latest statements in the public domain highlight the urgent need for continuance of democracy, equitable fair play among state institutions and civil-military camaraderie.
And more than the ambivalent Pakistanis as well as the delusional, half-baked Pakistani politicians and some of the evening talk show hosts (so-called journalist–turned-analysts) are those regional and international hawkeyed players albeit stakeholders eagerly wanting to see a ‘straight line phenomena’ ascend in Pakistan as it would guarantee the shortest distance to outcomes for all. Kayani, the quiet “democratic general’s” observations and advice to all including his successor to maintain the cruise are therefore significant if not historical.
The stakeholders may therefore want men like Musharraf around as much as they want the chain-smoking Kayani and the wheeling-dealing Zardari around. They kept Nawaz and Benazir around too. Our own stakeholders are aligned in most matters with the international players, and have been by and large holding strategic dialogues since many years. The next one is in 2014.
When I lump all stakeholders together, I have in mind the commonality of key ingredients in the national interests of the state of Pakistan and the international players.
These dictate a need to keep the assets around, and not rock the boat until it reaches the shore smoothly. Interestingly, over the years, the threat perception has grown full circle and now border security along the entire perimeter of Pakistan and on all sides has become a reality, internal stability notwithstanding. All the more needed is ‘reconciliation’ not through NROs but through the grind mill of justice.
Thus continuance in democratic setup that guarantees constituent-based political support to the government and the state, as well as their checks and balances through an effective judicial system that relies on rule of law have become all the more critical and relevant than in the past, while making past practices of revenge, judicial killing and witch hunting irrelevant, absolute.
Given such circumstances and scenario, throwing the commando to the wolves (Musharraf’s enemies) may yield unpredictable results leading of course to destabilization which is knocking at the door.
Letting or seeing due process of law take its course in Musharraf’s case(s) perfectly syncs with ‘predictability & control’ strategy adopted by the state, and it also embraces the general contour of the ‘straight line phenomenon’ being used since 2008.
For Musharraf therefore salvation lies in the due process of law, as it will ultimately create, though financially and time-wise would be costly, the path of least resistance for him to come out vanquished and survive for yet another cat’s life. Whether Musharraf thereafter plays an innings or two in Pakistan’s politics is another cigar to smoke on another day. Now he wants a day in court.
So for Musharraf, a battery of the best legal and Machiavellian minds is all that he needs to invoke all the lacunae in the constitution that exist or may exist in his favor, and walk on the sidewalk of our British-based laws towards sunshine. After all didn’t OJ Simpson get away with murder when his attorneys convinced him that the law would be on his side if it cannot be proved beyond reasonable doubt that he indeed was the murderer? We should not forget that Simpson’s media trial, opinion polls and racial bashings during the course of his trial dampened the American society but the verdict came ultimately in his favor. The rest is history.
As far as the promise of providing corroborating statements against Musharraf made by Ch Shujaat and Ejaz ul Haq is concerned, it may not I feel produce the ‘smoking gun’ to hang the commando, as both individuals may not pass the credibility test when cross-examined by the defendant’s criminal attorneys.
Both have been complicit since many years including Musharraf era of drawing their strengths from the khakis. It was therefore timely and apt when one newspaper headline and a cartoon said about them, “You too Brutus?”.
Only the establishment beyond reasonable doubt by the plaintiff’s attorney(s) that the Lal Masjid deaths were actually the result of a planned conspiracy by Musharraf and his executioners in the army, government, and bureaucracy of that time can implicate him and his partners of multiple murders or mass murder.
We are however not completely there yet, nor are we ready by any count to undertake a Nuremberg type trial as we do not practice the ritual of archiving paper trails that can assist our legal system to establish authority, responsibility and accountability matrix for Musharraf type individuals when they are in power.
We may boast of having become a nuclear state but we still remain a mosaic-nation polka-dotted with avengers and vigilantes, wannabes and carpetbaggers. Allah Khair Karey! (May God protect us).
Irshad Salim is Editor and Publisher of New York-based DesPardes.com and PKonweb.com and a political and cultural analyst. Presently, he is stationed in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on a management consultancy assignment.