Feature

Pakistan: A secret deal to protect Musharraf

President Asif Ali Zardari has been ignoring demands to put Pervez Musharraf on trial for treason because the former dictator was granted a "safe exit" in a deal made with foreign powers.

So now we know why the government has been refusing to put Pervez Musharraf on trial for treason, said Babar Sattar in the Islamabad News. Pakistan was doing the bidding of its foreign masters—the U.S., Britain, and Saudi Arabia. President Asif Ali Zardari admitted last week that the former dictator, who left office last year and is living in London, had been granted “safe exit” as a result of a deal “arranged by international powers with interests in South Asia.” That explains why the government has been ignoring opposition leader Nawaz Sharif’s demands that Musharraf be tried for treason. There’s plenty of legal justification for such a trial: Musharraf, after all, took power in a 1999 military coup, when he illegally ousted then–Prime Minister Sharif. And two months ago, the Supreme Court ruled that Musharraf’s decision in 2007 to impose emergency rule and dismiss dozens of senior judges was unconstitutional. But justice will be denied. Pakistan’s elites have once again “relinquished our sovereignty as a nation in return for securing guarantees for their self-serving interests.”

This clamor for Musharraf’s head is an ugly and dangerous “growl of revenge,” said the Lahore Daily Times in an editorial. Some people are even calling for “extending the dragnet of accountability to the dictators of the past, hanging the bodily remains of the dead dictators.” But the last thing our unstable nation needs is to be whipped into a populist frenzy. It’s actually not so bad that the “foreign stakeholders” cut a secret deal to protect Musharraf. The U.S. wanted to protect Musharraf because he was an American ally in the war on terror, while the British and the Saudis were eager to avoid a trial, because it could have a destabilizing effect. In this case, the foreigners are preventing us from giving in to our baser instincts. “All populist decisions taken by our governments brought us nothing but poor results.”

It’s time for us to move on, said Irfan Husain in the Karachi Dawn. Yes, it would feel good to jail Musharraf. “We have suffered at the hands of tin-pot dictators for far too long,” and letting yet another one escape “to a comfortable retirement” galls. But trying Musharraf would be a massive undertaking. After all, his 1999 coup was hardly a one-man endeavor. “All his junta of corps commanders and senior generals” would have to be tried with him. And Musharraf no doubt would “want to drag down as many people with him as he could, and would make many accusations against the politicians he hated.” Such a spectacle would clog the courts and paralyze the government for months if not years. Meanwhile, the Taliban and other extremist movements would grow stronger. Now is not the time to make an example of one deposed despot. Pakistan has larger concerns than revenge.

Sharif will probably drop his demands soon enough, said Zaglul Ahmed Chowdhury in the Bangladesh Daily Star. Saudi Arabia, “a close friend of Pakistan having considerable clout on Islamabad,” has made it clear that it does not want to see Musharraf put on trial. King Abdullah is even said to have appealed personally to Sharif to back down, and Sharif owes him. It was the Saudis who gave Sharif a comfortable exile in Jeddah after Musharraf ousted him. It looks as if “Musharraf, now abroad, can relax.”

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