Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Monday made his ambitions clear about his adversary and former military dictator General (r) Pervez Musharraf, saying the ousted general would be tried for high treason under Article 6.
However, in a smart move, Nawaz sought support from the political parties for the purpose, saying he would be consulting all political forces in this regard.
Musharraf faces charges of abrogating the constitution and detaining judges of the apex court after imposing emergency on November 3, 2007. However, Nawaz did not mention why Musharraf would not be tried for throwing out his own government and imposing a martial law on October 12, 1999 – which was the high point of tensions between the two.
Separately, a three-member bench of the apex court rejected the government’s plea for “political space”, saying the government should inform the court in how much time would the government start the procedure of Article 6 against Musharraf.
Nawaz takes parliament into confidence:
In a move aimed at talking political players into confidence over the government’s decision to move against the former dictator, Nawaz said he would seek views of politicians in this regard.
“The (federal) government will proceed against Musharraf in accordance with the law and take political forces in parliament into confidence, so that the collective will of the people of Pakistan is duly reflected in the process,” he said, adding that the government, in line with Supreme Court’s decision and Sindh High Court verdict, firmly subscribed to the view that holding the constitution in abeyance on November 3, 2007 constituted an act of high treason under Article 6 of the constitution 1973.
Outlaying its policy during the National Assembly session, the prime minister said on orders of the Supreme Court, the attorney general would submit the viewpoint of the federal government on acts of Musharraf on November 3, 2007.
He said Pakistan witnessed struggle between dictatorship and democracy for the last 66 years, adding that Pakistan came into being through a democratic process and future of the country depended on democracy.
“The prime minister is under oath to preserve, defend and protect the constitution,” he said, adding that the Senate through a resolution had also endorsed the viewpoint of the federal government.
“Now as the government is in power, it assures that it will follow the highest standards of justice and follow due process of law and assures to take further steps that are not blurred.”
“On November 3, 2007, the judiciary was attacked, media was gagged and parliament should be lauded that it refused to give indemnity to unconstitutional steps of Pervez Musharraf.” “We also played a role while the assembly did not give indemnity.”
Nawaz said judges were stopped from working and detained in their houses, adding that the main cause of problems of Pakistan was deviation from the constitution.
“Dictator Pervez Musharraf abrogated the constitution because of his personal interest. On October 12, 1999, an elected government was ousted despite the fact that it had the support of parliament, there was no crisis in the country, economy was going smooth, rupee was strong, new mega projects were underway and foreign and domestic investment was flowing in.”
“The nation was getting ready for elections when a dictator usurped power. The democratic forces of the country refused to accept dictatorship and intellectuals and thinkers of the nation kept democratic hopes of the nation alive,” he maintained.
He said the democratic governments moved forward with courage and passed every test with resolve and determination. “Pakistan’s struggle for democracy is also an example to follow for many other nations,” he said, adding that following elections of February 2008, parliament came under pressure to condone the November 3 steps, but his party refused to do so.
He said the new government faced many challenges, including terrorism, law and order, unemployment and economy and people wanted solution of their problems.
PPP, smaller groups support Nawaz, PTI cautious:
The Pakistan Peoples’ Party-Parliamentarians was quick to back Nawaz Sharif’s announcement of invoking Article 6 against Musharraf, while the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) looked a bit cautious.
Leader of Opposition Syed Khurshid Shah appreciated the move and said the dictators who declared the constitution of Pakistan a piece of paper and violated its sanctity were being held accountable under the same constitution.
He said pictures of all dictators should be removed from institutions of democracy and urged the government to move a resolution in this regard to send a clear message to such forces that this would not be allowed in the future.
Speaking on the Occasion, PTI’s Deputy Parliamentary Leader Shah Mehmood Qureshi did not make any categorical statement, but limited his party’s support to the government’s moves in line with the supremacy of rule of the law.
“If we want to see democratic institutions strong and flourishing, then we will have to follow the principle of supremacy of rule of law,” he said, adding that taking political parties into confidence on important national issues by the prime minister was a good measure.
“The PTI has always been supporting and promoting supremacy of constitution and ensuring sanctity of constitution is the duty of every citizens of Pakistan. The PTI will support all positive measures to strengthen democracy and supremacy of the constitution,” he added.
Jamiat Ulma-e-Islam-Fazl leader Akram Khan Durrani praised the prime minister for taking the House into confidence and said it had practically demonstrated that parliament was supreme.
Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP) leader Mehmood Khan Achakzai termed the decision historic, saying this had not happened before.
“This is the start of a new era and I congratulate the prime minister,” he remarked. “All those having sacrificed their lives for the promotion of democracy should be declared martyrs of democracy”.
“We have put our vehicle on the right path,” he said. “We want our army and intelligence agencies to be among the best in the world. However, they should work to run this country in accordance with the constitution as is in vogue in other democratic countries of the world.”
Jamat-e-Islami MNA Sahibzada Muhamamd Yaqoob congratulated the prime minister, saying this was a good example of promoting democratic culture in the country. “We will support all positive measures of the government,” he remarked.
AML, MQM, PML-Z distance:
Abdul Waseem of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) said all those who had violated the constitution should be brought to justice and stressed the need for taking concrete measures to stop dictators from derailing democracy.
Awami Muslim League (AML) chief Sheikh Rashid said the people of Pakistan had given a heavy mandate to the PML-N and resolving pressing issues should be the government’s first priority.
He said instead of seeking to invoke Article 6 from November 3, 2007, the government should start the treason charges from October 12, 1999.
PML-Zia chief Ijazul Haq said democracy was the way to lead the country towards a good future. He also demanded action against supporters of all martial laws as well as civil martial law administrators. He was referring to Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, who took over the reigns as civil martial law administrator from then dictator General Yahya Khan.
WHAT ARTICLE 6 SAYS?
6. High treason.—1[(1) Any person who abrogates or subverts or suspends or holds in abeyance, or attempts or conspires to abrogate or subvert or suspend or hold in abeyance, the Constitution by use of force or show of force or by any other unconstitutional means shall be guilty of high treason.]
(2) Any person aiding or abetting 2[or collaborating] the acts mentioned in clause (1) shall likewise be guilty of high treason.
3[(2A) An act of high treason mentioned in clause (1) or clause (2) shall not be validated by any court including the Supreme Court and a High Court.]
(3) 4[Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament)] shall by law provide for the punishment of persons found guilty of high treason.