The detour by the Musharraf cavalcade to the Armed Forces Institute of Cardiology (AFIC) instead of appearing at the National Library suggests that our former army chief and president will be unable to attend the proceedings being held to try him for treason for some time.
He has been admitted at the AFIC but we are told that his medical reports will not be made public. Already doctors out of the country are being consulted. This is possibly why there is a general feeling that the former president may finally be leaving the country.
Ever since the start of what promised to be a historic trial, not all has gone according to plan. There have been no-shows and trading of allegations between lawyers. We have seen lawyers from the Musharraf team accusing their state counterparts of being threatened and bullied. The presence of Sharifuddin Pirzada, once called the “Jadoogar of Jeddah” by columnist Ardeshir Cowasjee, leads one to believe that much will happen both within the court and outside it.
Now we are told that our former strongman suffers from heart trouble. His health takes precedence and there may be a plea to allow him to proceed abroad but that is for our Supreme Court to decide. In between, the arrival of Prince Saud Al Faisal, an old Saudi friend, implies that there may be some understanding being brokered which allows freedom to one and face-saving to another.
After all, it was on medical grounds that then ex-PM Mian Nawaz Sharif was allowed to proceed to Saudi Arabia in 2000. It was said at the time that Saud Al Faisal played a key role but the man who wanted Mian Sahab safe was none other than crown prince Abdullah with whom the house of Sharif shares a close personal relationship. Abdullah Ibn Abdul Aziz is now King and may possibly want to return a favour to Musharraf, who listened to wiser counsel when he was Chief Executive to let Mian Sahab leave the country.
It may be recalled that at the time Mian Sahab flew to Saudi Arabia, an Anti Terrorism Court had awarded him life imprisonment in a hijacking case while acquitting all others. One always wondered under what legal cover Mian Sahab left the country, but then one is not a legal expert and loopholes are found aplenty.
Later, this life sentence was quashed as late as 2009 by the Supreme Court, allowing Mian Sahab to resume participation in active politics. But memories linger. And now the tables have turned.
We are told that intense behind the scene negotiations are taking place. The foreign office, however, cautions us to not link the arrival of Prince Saud Al Faisal with a possible exit of General Musharraf.
Some say that the army has spoken. Opposition leader Khurshid Shah has asked the army to comment on the statement by General Musharraf earlier when he had told an interviewer that the army was with him on the issue of the trial against him.
The question is: what next? Shaikh Rasheed, who served as a close ally of General Musharraf when the general took power and worked for several years as his spokesman, now says that the writing is on the wall and that Musharraf will soon leave. Rasheed is now a bitter critic of Musharraf, and an ally of the PTI. The world comes full circle.
But PML-N leaders say that the former army chief will stay in the country and the trial against him will proceed. MQM leader Altaf Hussain has added a new dimension to the Musharraf trial as well. Chaudhry Shujaat gives his two cents worth too.
Either way, what we do see is that the trial may not be taking place in the manner that we wanted it to. Also, there is an argument from the Musharraf side that says that all those guilty should be taken to court, not just the prime candidate. Actions in Pakistan do not take place in isolation. And the crimes General sahib is accused of are no exception.
We are told that the Musharraf trial itself was a diversion. If that is the case, then this too may fizzle out. And with it, any chance of bringing to book those who defied our constitution. The more things change, the more they stay the same.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 6th, 2014.
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