- Long arm of the law?
With the clock ticking on SC’s Thursday 2pm deadline for Gen Musharraf’s appearance, it is still unclear if taking the court’s word at face value – that he will not be arrested – would ensure freedom beyond merely walking out of the airplane and into the honourable court. Surely, he understands, that once the cases proceed, the no-arrest guarantee will, eventually, turn out to be a mouse-trap. And, suffering from Parkinson’s as he is, not to mention the miniscule chance of him ever making an impact on Pakistan’s politics again, perhaps the one-time strongman will consider, in his larger personal interest, to not make a contest out of this one.
Yet, despite the court’s accommodating posture – in the larger interest of justice, no doubt – Gen Musharraf remains an absconder. It is up to the government, therefore, to take a decisive position on the matter. As the CJP rightly pointed out, the general was able to leave the country mid-way through his treason trial because of an inherent weakness in the government, not because of some notification from the Supreme Court. Should he continue to defy the judiciary, simply cancelling his nomination papers will not be enough. The trials against him should then be concluded, and verdicts passed, in absentia.
Whether or not some people are holier than others, meaning they can defy the long arm of the law when it comes to answering for their excesses, is all the rage ever since the so-called Panama Papers landed former prime minister Nawaz Sharif in hot waters in 2016. Yet when the dictator was finally being tried for treason in a landmark trial, it was the civilian government that first raised controversy by trying him for the Nov7 emergency instead of the Oct12 coup and then, at the risk of repetition, removed his name from the ECL just when the case was getting serious. It seems time has come, one way or another, for the Musharraf trial to proceed finally.