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Former President's indictment; Pakistan's call for introspection

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The special court constituted to try former military ruler Pervez Musharraf for high treason indicted him on Monday and put the ball in the government's court in relation to the request put forward by the former president to be allowed to travel abroad, DawnNews reported.

The registrar of the special court read out the court's decision on the request of the former military dictator to travel abroad in order to meet his ailing mother. The court also granted Musharraf exemption from appearing in the case's hearings saying the accused could be ordered to appear in court whenever required.

The decision said that as long as the accused was not in custody, he could seek medical treatment at any place of his choice, adding that an accused could not be restrained from traveling nor could his/her rights as a human being be curtailed for any reason.

However, the court added that removal of Musharraf's name from ECL was not the prerogative of the special court as it had not ordered for the inclusion of his name in the list in the first place.
The hearing of the case was adjourned to April 15.

Earlier during the day, the three judge court headed by Justice Faisal Arab of the Sind High Court read out the indictment against the ex-army strongman, with Musharraf pleading "not guilty" to each of them.
Musharraf, who has been absent from most of the tribunal's hearings owing to security threats and ill health, then turned to address the court.

"I honor this court and prosecution, I strongly believe in law I don't have ego problems, and I have appeared in court 16 times in this year in Karachi, Islamabad and Rawalpindi," the 70-year-old, who ruled from 1999 to 2008, said.

"I am being called a traitor, I have been chief of army staff for nine years and I have served this army for 45 years. I have fought two wars and it is 'treason'?"

The indictment cited imposition of Nov 3, 2007 emergency as one of the charges against Musharraf which led to the violation of Article 6 of the Constitution. It also included the deposition of superior court judges and the suspension of fundamental rights among the list of charges.
The charge sheet, which Musharraf signed today, also refers to his oath-taking under the Provisional Constitution Order (PCO).

The former military ruler has pleaded not guilty, saying he would stand his ground.

Following are some observations:

1. The indictment of a former Chief of the Army Staff and the country's President on charges of high treason reflects supremacy of law and respect for the constitution. However it should not be forgotten that Pakistan has been ruled by military dictators in the past who have extended their rule by violating the constitution in much bigger terms.

2. President Musharraf's tenure of office was marked by economic progress, social liberalism, establishment of a completely free press and electronic media and an effective foreign policy. This military government performed with much more public support as compered to its civilian predecessors.

3. The democratically elected government under President Zardari, although completing its full term of office proved to be a big disappointment for the people. The dismal economic performance, with no political or social reform, high inflation and breakdown of law and order led Pakistan towards an economic collapse. It was then that people started considering the rule of President Musharraf very favorably.

4. It is unfortunate that a democratically elected governments fails to deliver as compared to the military, as happened in the case of Zardari's rule compared to General Musharraf.

5. President Musharraf should be allowed to leave the country to see his mother who is critically ill in Sharjah. The government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif must allow the former President to visit his mother as a gesture of goodwill. After all he kept his promise of staying in the country and facing the court of law leading up to his indictment.

Sources:

Dawn News March 31, 2014

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