By Brig Asif Haroon Raja
The year 2007 marked the beginning of end of Gen Musharraf’s rule which he commenced in October 1999 after deposing an elected government of Nawaz Sharif through a coup launched by his team of Generals while he was on his way back from Colombo. Lt Gen Aziz (CGS), Lt Gen Mahmood (Commander 10 Corps Rawalpindi), Lt Gen Usmani (Commander 2 Corps Karachi) and 111 Brigade Commander Brig Salahuddin Satti formed the core team to launch the coup on the evening of 12 October 1999 after PM Nawaz retired Gen Musharraf and appointed DG ISI Lt Gen Ziauddin as his successor. Lt Gen Khalid Maqbool, Commander 4 Corps Lahore and Lt Gen Saeeduz Zafar, Commander 11 Corps Peshawar sided with the coup makers. Nawaz’s loyalists tried to block the landing of PIA carrying Musharraf and his wife at Karachi airport but failed.
Musharraf’s treasonous act was hailed by all political parties including PPP except for PML-N and validated by the Supreme Court. Later on, Jamali’s government condoned the military coup through 17th Amendment in which MMA played an important role. Although Nawaz was Musharraf’s benefactor since he had made him COAS out of turn and later granted him additional portfolio of CJSC, he was roughly handled, handcuffed, tried under charges of hijacking and terrorism and awarded life sentence. On Saudi Arabia’s request, he was released and allowed to go in exile for ten years.
Musharraf’s seven point program fetched impressive results and helped in upturning the economy which had become fragile in 1999. His socio-economic development program received a fillip after he became an ally of USA in September 2001 and agreed to fight global war on terror. The US in turn removed sanctions, rescheduled debts, sanctioned five-year $10 billion aid and paved the way for steady inflow of investments. His efficient management and governance together with monitoring system to keep a check on all departments and state corporations helped in turning all economic indicators into positive. All was however not rosy since he had to pay a heavy price for his alliance with USA. War on terror scheduled to be fought in Afghanistan spilled into Pakistan and paved way for the establishment of TTP. American influence swept into each and every department. Series of allegations pasted on Pakistan put it on the defensive which made it easier for Washington to continue asking Pakistan to do more and get bled.
Friendship with India also had a price tag. Banning of Jihadi groups and blocking their routes into occupied Kashmir forced them to join hands with TTP and to expand the war on terror from FATA to urban centres. These groups are locked in mortal combat with security forces since 2004 and both sides have suffered grievous losses. Urban terrorism resulted in heavy loss of civilian lives and destruction of property. Decade old war has caused $70 billion financial loss and over 30,000 fatalities and gave a shattering blow to economy.
Tied up in the northwest where the tribal militants were giving a tough time to security forces, Musharraf was confronted with another challenge in Balochistan where Nawab Akbar Bugti led Baloch rebels started an insurgency in 2004. Heating up two extreme flanks and involvement of foreign agencies became worrisome. In 2006, aged and ailing Akbar Bugti after rejecting all offers of reconciliation established his command post in a cave in mountains near Kohlu. Finding that the noose was tightening around him and most of the 60 Farari camps had been destroyed by the security forces, Bugti offered to surrender. However, when a team of Army officers went to negotiate with him, he blew up the cave as a result of which he and his companions and negotiating team died. His death gave a handle to the nationalist Balochis to whip up Baloch nationalism, declare Bugti as a hero and Musharraf as a murderer. Helped by foreign powers, insurgency turned into secessionist movement.
Having assessed that King’s Party had failed to make its impact among the masses; Musharraf accepted US-UK advice and held a secret meeting with Benazir Bhutto at Dubai in January 2007 to sort out preliminaries of power sharing in the future. Musharraf’s downhill journey began with the unjust sacking of Chief Justice Iftikhar on March 7, 2007, which triggered countrywide lawyer’s movement. While he was embroiled with lawyers, 12 May 2007 episode occurred in Karachi where the MQM goons after detaining the visiting chief justice at the airport, opened fire on political rallies of PPP, ANP and TI and killed 60 people. Musharraf’s graph fell when he arrogantly raised his fists while addressing PML-Q’s public meeting at Liaquat Bagh and refused to take any action against the MQM. His graph dipped further after his shoddy handling of inmates of Lal Masjid in July that year. Reinstatement of chief justice in that month was another setback for him.
When Nawaz and Benazir in exile inked Charter of Democracy in May 2007, Musharraf hastened to sign the power sharing deal with Benazir in July 2007. In order to allow her and her cronies to return to Pakistan and participate in elections, he issued infamous NRO on October 5, 2007 and in return the PPP helped him in getting re-elected for next five years. Benazir returned on October 17, 2007 despite warnings given to her by his well wishers as well as Musharraf about security threats. She was received at the Karachi airport by a mammoth crowd but the same night she survived a deadly terrorist attack which killed over hundred Jayalas.
Continued agitation by fuming lawyers joined by other political parties, civil society and media unnerved Musharraf and he shot himself in the foot by declaring emergency on November 3, 2007, abrogated constitution, sacked 60 judges of higher courts and detained them in their houses. The police baton charged the lawyers and arrested large numbers. Dogar court condoned the act under doctrine of necessity. When these measures also didn’t help in defusing the situation and Benazir started mounting pressure that Musharraf should vacate one of his offices, he had to relent and on November 27, he vacated his COAS chair and handed over the baton to his VCOAS Gen Ashfaq Kayani.
Five weeks later on December 27, soon after her address at Liaquat Bagh, Benazir’s car was hit by a suicide bomber and she succumbed to injuries. Musharraf figured out in the list of suspects. Her sudden death upturned the fortunes of Zardari and he hastened to fill the vacuum. Although Army under Gen Kayani decided not to interfere in elections rescheduled in March 2008, elections gerrymandered by President Musharraf, interim regime and Election Commission brought PPP led liberal parties in power. Zardari desperately wanting to occupy president’s chair and get presidential indemnity from law courts, joined hands with Nawaz and eased out Musharraf in August 2008. He was however allowed to go in exile with honor.
Once the sacked judges were reinstated by the new government, a 14-member bench of Supreme Court declared on July 31, 2009 that November 3 act was unconstitutional and without any legal basis. Later on, Musharraf was tried in absentia and declared an absconder in Bugti and Benazir murder cases. Red warrants were issued to get him arrested and brought back by Interpol; his properties were seized and bank accounts frozen.
Musharraf led a luxurious life during his four-year exile. While Pakistan sank in myriad of problems because of poor governess, ineptness and corrupt practices of PPP led regime, he had no worries whatsoever. The only thing that caused him anxiety was the full-throttled media vilification campaign buttressed by PML-N leaders against him and the hostility of the higher courts. To keep himself busy, he delivered lectures and formed APML political party.
By the time the last regime completed its five year tenure; the people had started detesting politicians and democracy and remembered Musharraf era. Sycophants around him and his 750,000 fans on Facebook and Twitter suggested to him that he was direly needed back home. Although his well wishers and Establishment sincerely advised him that circumstances were not conducive for him to return, he got carried away by the toadies who convinced him that he was the only dynamic leader who could pullout the country from the mess created by politicians and upturn Pakistan’s economy. They assured him that he would be given a rousing welcome on arrival. He started to see himself as a savior. Temptation of power was too appealing which he couldn’t resist. He forgot that he had made too many sworn enemies when in power. The ones who suffered at his hands were the Pakistani Taliban, banned religious and Jihadi groups, Lal Masjid affecters, Baloch nationalists, judiciary, segment of lawyer community, Sharif brothers and Dr AQ Khan.
Musharraf is in the dock but is not regretful of his past sins he committed during his autocratic rule. He doesn’t repent his unconstitutional acts and unabashedly says that action against Akbar Bugti and inmates of Lal Masjid were correct. He maintains that Nawaz was fully on board in Kargil venture. He says that he was not alone in deciding to declare November 3 emergency. However, his megalomania is fast deflating after his exit from electoral race and the judiciary tightening the noose around his neck in judges’ detention and Benazir murder cases. His farmhouse in Chak Shehzad has been converted into sub-jail and he has been given four days physical remand instead of judicial remand in Benazir case.
Anti-Army elements are in ugly mood. Senators are baying for Musharraf’s blood and want to see him handcuffed, paraded through streets, locked in the same cell in which Nawaz was put in and tried under Article 6 and hanged. They are berating the caretaker government for refusing to move a case of treason against him. A segment of lawyers who of late have turned into rogues are in the vanguard and want him to be made a sacrificial lamb to deflate their rage. His bashing helps them in discrediting the Army as an institution. I overhear that a large number in Army do not like the way their ex chief is being mishandled. Senior commanders are being pressured to put a stop to his degradation. Others are wondering as to why the judiciary has become so super active in his case when it couldn’t decide even a single case against those who had ransacked the country and made it dysfunctional? Are the rulers of the last regime not qualified to be tried under Article 6 and punished? His rough handling is generating a sympathy wave.
While the Army leadership is advised to maintain its policy of hands off politico-judicial matters and should not become an involved party, the judiciary should remain above board and shouldn’t get misled by agitating lawyers and Musharraf’s detractors. It should not only grant him a fair trial but treat him as innocent until charges against him are proved. Pakistan cannot afford another clash of institutions which will prove disastrous.