Army chief visits SSG HQ in show of solidarity with Musharraf

Gen Qamar says army won’t allow hard earned stability to go away at any cost

Our Correspondent December 18, 2019
Army chief visits SSG headquarters, lauds contributions of its officers and soldiers for the country’s defence. PHOTO: ISPR

KARACHI: A day after General (retd) Pervez Musharraf – who hailed from the elite Special Services Group of the Pakistan Army – was sentenced to death by a special court on treason charges, army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa visited the SSG Headquarters in what appears to be a show of solidarity with the former chief of army staff.

“We have brought stability by failing all inimical forces operating against Pakistan. We shall never let it go away at any cost,” Gen Qamar said during the visit to the SSG Headquarters in Tarbela on Wednesday.

“[The] SSG is our pride with myriad contributions towards defence of [the] country through its valiant officers and soldiers since the creation of Pakistan,“ he was quoted as saying by the director general of the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) in a tweet.

The SSG – which is also known as the Maroon Berets due to their distinctive headgear, or simply commando force – is the elite special operations force mandated with their five primary tasks: foreign internal defence, reconnaissance, direct actions, counter-terrorism, and their most important task, unconventional warfare.

Musharraf had joined the SSG shortly after the end of the 1965 war. He had served the elite force from 1966 to1972 – the period during which he was first promoted to captain and then to major rank. During the 1971 war, he was the company commander of an SSG commando battalion.

Special court convicts Musharraf of high treason, sentences him to death

Gen Qamar’s visit came a day after a three-judge special court convicted Musharraf of treason and sentenced him to death. The charges stem from the imposition of a state of emergency by the former president in 2007, after which dozens of judges were placed under house arrest or sacked, sparking widespread street protests by lawyers.

Tellingly, Gen (retd) Raheel Sharif, then army chief, had also visited the SSG Headquarters a week after Musharraf was indicted by the special court – then headed by Justice Faisal Arab – on five charges of high treason on March 31, 2014.

During his visit on April 7, 2014, Gen Raheel had sought to assuage the concerns of SSG commandos over “undue criticism” of the army in the wake of Musharraf’s indictment. He had said that the army respects all the state institutions but would also preserve its own dignity and institutional pride at all costs.

This shows the military is clearly angry at the treason case against a former general framed by the government of his old foe, Nawaz Sharif, in 2013 for violating the Constitution in November 2007.

Musharraf had toppled the second government of Nawaz in a coup in October 1998 and assumed the power. He had ruled the country for nine years – first as the chief executive, then as president in army uniform, and finally as civilian president – until 2008 when the PPP was voted to power and Asif Ali Zardari replaced him as president.

The military voiced anger in a statement on Tuesday following an unscheduled huddle of the top military commanders which was convened hours after the special court judgment.

Special court verdict against Musharraf received with ‘lot of pain and anguish’ by army: ISPR

“The decision given by [the] special court about General (retd) Pervez Musharraf has been received with [a] lot of pain and anguish by [the] rank and file of Pakistan[‘s] Armed Forces,” DG ISPR Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor said in a statement shared on Twitter.

“An ex-army chief, chairman joint chief of staff committee and president of Pakistan, who has served the country for over 40 years, fought wars for the defence of the country can surely never be a traitor,” he said.

It added that the “armed forces of Pakistan expect that justice will be dispensed in line with Constitution”.

The top law officer of the government also picked holes in the proceedings of the special court which, according to him, operated “outside the scope of the law” and denied Musharraf his constitutional right to "fair trial".

Musharraf’s political party, the All Pakistan Muslim League, and his lawyers have decided to appeal against the “unconstitutional verdict” in the Supreme Court, and the prosecution says it would defend the ailing former president during the hearing of the appeal.


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