MUSH THE MISCHIEF MONGER… Ex-Pakistan military dictator Pervez Musharraf sentenced to death; his body be hanged in city square for 3 days

NEWS MUSHARRAF
ISLAMABAD/NEW DELHI: Pakistan’s former dictator Pervez Musharraf has been handed out a death sentence by a special court trying the case of treason against him. The court, explaining its verdict, said Musharraf should not only be hanged to death but also treated in the harshest manner.

“The corpse (of former Pakistan President General Syed Pervez Musharraf) should be dragged to the central square here and hanged for three days if he is dead before his execution,” the special court in Pakistan said Thursday after it awarded him death sentence. All hope is not lost, though. Now, Musharraf can file an appeal against the present court order.

Musharraf suspended the Constitution in 2007 and announced Emergency rule, which under Article 6 of the Constitution of Pakistan, is an act of treason punishable with death. Musharraf ruled Pakistan from 1999 to 2008, after unseating elected leader Nawaz Sharif. The 76-year-old Musharraf was the 10thPresident of Pakistan, a post he held from 2001 to 2008. He was born in Old Delhi during the British Raj and after Partition, did his education in Karachi and UK. 

The three-member special court sentenced, in absentia, the 76-year-old Musharraf, who had seized power in a military coup in 1999, to death, for high treason following a six-year legal case. The Pakistan Army reacted angrily and said that its former chief can “never be a traitor”. The verdict against him has been received with “lot of pain and anguish” by Pakistan Armed Forces personnel, it added.

In its 167-page judgement authored by Peshawar high court Chief Justice Waqar Ahmad Seth, who headed the bench, the court said the “convict be hanged by his neck till he dies on each count as per charge.” Justice Seth wrote that Musharraf should be hanged even if he dies before his execution.
“We direct the law enforcement agencies to strive their level best to apprehend the fugitive/convict and to ensure that the punishment is inflicted as per law and if found dead, his corpse be dragged to the D-Chowk, Islamabad, Pakistan and be hanged for 03 days,” he wrote.

D-Chowk, or Democracy Chowk is close to several important government buildings — the Presidency, the Prime Minister’s office, the Parliament, and the Supreme Court. 

SPLIT VERDICT
The verdict against Musharraf was split by 2-1 as Justice Shahid Karim of the Lahore high court supported the death sentence while Justice Nazar Akbar of the Sindh high court disagreed and wrote a dissenting note. However, Justice Karim also disagreed with the dragging and hanging of Musharraf’s body after his death. “I dissent with the President (…) it has no basis in law and will be ultra vires for this court to do so. In my opinion it is enough to sentence the accused to death,” wrote Justice Karim.

The detailed judgement angered the army, which said the verdict was against all human, religious and civilizational values. “The apprehensions about the short verdict given on Dec 17 have been proved right by the detailed judgment of today. The decision of today and especially the words used in it are against the humanity, religion, civilization and any other value,” Military spokesman Major General Asif Ghafoor said.

He said Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa and Prime Minister Imran Khan had a detailed meeting on the conviction of Gen (retd) Musharraf and took some important decisions which would be announced soon.

The detailed judgement came hours after Musharraf raised serious questions on his trial and said the verdict was based on some people’s “personal animosity” towards him. “Some people in high offices misused their authority to target one individual,” he said, in an apparent reference to Chief Justice of Pakistan Asif Saeed Khosa.  

Khosa is retiring on Friday. He said last month that the post-2009 judiciary had convicted one prime minster (Yousuf Raza Gilani); disqualified another (Nawaz Sharif)); and was soon going to decide the treason case against a former army chief (Musharraf). Previously, a Pakistani court had sentenced ex-Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto to death by hanging.

Musharraf, who sounded weak and seriously ill, said in a video message recorded from his hospital bed in Dubai: “I call it (verdict) a suspicious judgment because it disregarded the principle of supremacy of law from the beginning. I’d rather say that if going by the Constitution, this case should not have been heard.”

WHAT THE COURT SAID
Justice Akbar in his 42-page dissenting note said that the act of Musharraf could be illegal, mala fide and unconstitutional but could not be treated as an act of treason. “In the offence under Article 6 of the Constitution, the charging word is ‘high treason’, therefore, without properly appreciating what does it mean, this court cannot pass a just and fair verdict,” he wrote.

The majority judgment, however, said that the military commanders who ‘guarded, abetted’ Musharraf should be held accountable and government should act against them.The court also rejected the impression that the judgment was given in haste and Musharraf was not given a fair trial. “It is patent by the act and conduct of the accused facing trial that he has persistently and stubbornly strived ever since the commencement of this trial, to delay, retract and in fact evade it. It has been his plea throughout that either on account of ill health or for security hazards he could not reach up to this Court to face trial,” according to the judgement.

The court said that all those who facilitated Musharraf to go out of the county to escape the law should also be held accountable.

Musharraf is the first military ruler to receive the capital punishment in Pakistan’s history. His sentencing was highly significant in Pakistan where the powerful military has ruled the country for nearly half of its 72-year history. Gen Bajwa made a symbolic visit to the headquarters of the military’s Special Services Group (SSG) on Wednesday where he praised their contributions towards defence of the country.

MUSHARRAF, KARGIL
Musharraf served in the elite SSG from 1966-1972 and during the 1971 Pak-India war, he was a company commander of an SSG commando battalion. He came to power in 1999 by toppling the government of then PM Nawaz Sharif and ruled until 2008. He has 30 days to file appeal in the apex court.
It was Nawaz Sharif who made Musharraf the head of the armed forces in 1998, and a year later, Musharraf threw Sharif out of power and seized control of the nation. Musharraf was a frontline strategist behind the Kargil offensive by Pakistan. 

From March to May 1999, he had ordered the army for secret infiltrations in high-altitude Kargil district of India, a barren landscape. India detected it a while later, and a fierce military build-up followed. It did not reach a full-scale war because of the US intervention and call to Nawaz Sharif to withdraw the army. Sharif’s decision antagonized the Pakistan Army, and finally led to a coup by General Pervez Musharraf. –AGENCIES, IHN-NN

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WHAT THE DAWN SAID:
A JUDICIAL BOMBSHELL
“If the sentence of capital punishment that held former army chief general Pervez Musharraf guilty of treason in Tuesday’s short order came as a jolt, the detailed verdict was nothing short of a judicial bombshell.
The tone of the verdict released yesterday was horrifying in places – and indicated a troubling descent into medievalism. Have we really become so brutalised as a society that we can order the corpse of a convict who dies before he is executed to be dragged to a public square and strung up for three days?
Two of the three judges on the special court bench had found Mr Musharraf guilty and sentenced him to death – a punishment that this paper deplores under any circumstances. And it was one of them, justice Waqar Seth, who spelt out the graphic punishment.
It is to be hoped that this minority view does not obscure the underlying significance of the judgement – that is, it is for the first time in this country that a former army chief has been found guilty of high treason. Critically, the 2-1 verdict had raised some other serious constitutional questions, including on the role of those who had aided Mr Musharraf in his November 3, 2007 misadventure. One hopes that the tone of the judgement will not obscure these relevant aspects.
Taking their cue from a meeting between the prime minister and the incumbent army chief, both the ISPR and the government’s ministers have weighed in on the matter. The government has decided to approach the supreme judicial council for the removal of justice Seth on the grounds that he is “unfit” to be a judge, and is to separately file an appeal against the verdict in the supreme court. That is its right.
On his part, rising to the defence of his institution, a visibly emotional DG ISPR criticized the verdict’s language, saying it went against “humanity and religion”, a point that many would have endorsed. In this troubling atmosphere, it is time for all institutions to take a step back in order to avoid a head-on collision. The government will be pursuing the matter legally, which is the correct thing to do. The prime minister’s advice of restraint is timely and must be followed, instead of government ministers and institutions targeting the judiciary that safeguards the Constitution.
The judgement, notwithstanding its disturbing language in places, forms the basis for a frank and robust debate on the direction in which Pakistani democracy is headed and on whether there is a need for course correction.

Equally important is a discussion on Pakistani society and how it can avoid the minefields of the tribal, anachronistic mores that lie in its path to progress. Without introspection, the country will continue to slide towards anarchy, a situation that anti-state elements will be only to keen to exploit.” — EDITORIAL, THE DAWN, Islamabad.

INDIA HERE AND NOW www.indiahereandnow.comemail:indianow999@gmail.com

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