If sources close to General (retd) Pervez Musharraf are to be believed, the former president is likely to fly out of the country as part of a ‘secret deal’.
The move would be a repeat of events in 2001 when incumbent Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his family were sent to Saudi Arabia under a deal. Almost 13 years on, Musharraf would be trading places with Nawaz. The sole difference between then and now is that Musharraf would be allowed safe passage on health grounds, sources privy to the development said.
Just like the 2001 agreement, the 2014 deal is being brokered by international players, the sources told The Express Tribune.
Legal experts, however, say the former military ruler cannot leave the country without the court’s permission.
Unless the Supreme Court reviews its decree on federal guarantees over former president Pervez Musharraf’s presence in the country, the government cannot lift travel curbs against him, according to some experts.
The court, in its order of April 8, 2013, directed the government to make sure Musharraf remained in the country until initiation of a criminal case against him for subverting the Constitution.
“The interior ministry cannot remove Musharraf’s name from the ECL, even if Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif passes an executive order instructing it to do so,” said senior advocate Ali Zafar.
He pointed out, though, that anyone whose name was put on the ECL ‘illegally’ had the legal right to challenge the move in court. “Musharraf can only leave Pakistan when the apex court orders the interior ministry to remove his name from ECL.”
Former interior secretary Tasneem Noorani supported Zafar’s opinion. “I do not think it is possible for the interior ministry to remove his name from the list unless the court reviews its order,” he said.
On the other hand, Ibrahim Satti, who pleaded Musharraf’s case, claimed that it was the government which put his client’s name on the ECL. “No court order exists in this regard,” he told The Express Tribune.
‘Under doctors’ advice’
Barrister Muhammad Ali Saif, one of the lawyers defending Musharraf before the special court, indicated that they might request the court to allow the former president to leave the country for medical treatment.
“If the doctors advise taking him [Musharraf] for treatment abroad … a submission will be made before the court to allow him to leave the country,” Saif said. A source close to Musharraf disclosed that he had been preparing to leave the country to take care of his ill mother just days before a three-member special court was constituted to try him for treason charges.
“General Sahib did not expect the government to proceed against with the treason [indictment],” the source said, adding that Musharraf had been confident about leaving the country after securing bail in the other cases he was facing. But after the special court summoned him for trial under Article 6 of the Constitution for imposing emergency rule in 2007, he began approaching his friends ‘both inside and outside the country’, to deal with the issue, the source said.
The source said the former army chief Gen (retd) Ashfaq Parvez Kayani strongly opposed Musharraf’s trial. He added that Kayani’s successor has also privately conveyed his concerns to the government over the ‘singling out’ of his former boss in connection with the case.
“There is concern within the rank and file of the army that Musharraf is being politically victimised,” a recently retired senior army officer said on condition of anonymity. He also revealed that Musharraf had been meeting serving army officials over the past few days to discuss the treason case.
The military’s media wing was unavailable for comment when approached. Government officials insisted that Musharraf was not in the government’s custody and it was up to the court to decide his fate. Officials also strongly denied that any country, including Saudi Arabia, Britain or the United States, approached the government for Musharraf’s ‘safe passage.’
However, sources close to Musharraf claimed that Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al Faisal, who is arriving in Islamabad on Monday, will discuss the treason case with the government.
Saudi rulers, who were close to Nawaz as well as Musharraf, have been involved in high-profile political deals in the past.
However, the foreign office officials claimed that his visit was planned much ahead of the developments related to Musharraf’s trial.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 3rd, 2014.