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Pakistani leaders demand Musharraf trial from October 1999

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By Abbas Kassar

Hyderabad (Pakistan): The newly-elected Pakistan government headed by Prime Minister Mian Nawaz Sharif has made announcement in parliament to initiate action against former President General (retired) Pervez Musharraf under high treason.The people in parliament, media and civil society have hailed this announcement. Even those mediapersons and anchors who had supported General Musharraf in imposing army rule in the country on 12 October 1999 toppling the then elected government headed by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif are now backing Musharraf's trial. It may be recalled that Nawaz Sharif was first sent to jail and then under a deal sent to Saudi Arabia where he passed 8 long years in exile.

Apart from the case of high treason, Mushraf has also been indicted in two cases of murder. One case is related to assasination of former Prime Minister Ms. Benazir Bhutto, who was killed on 27 December 2007 at Rawalpindi at same place where first Prime Minister of Pakistan Nawabzada Liaquat Ali Khan was assassinated. Both the above cases are being heard in anti-terrorist courts.

However, the government instead of initiating case of high treason under article of constitution for deposing elected govt on 12 October has taken step against Musharraf for his declaration of emergency on 3 November under which judges of superior courts were detained in their homes for 18 months.

The leaders of various political parties including Syed Khurshid Shah of Pakistan Peoples Party and the leader of opposition in national parliament, Maulana Fazal Rehman Amir Jamiat Ulema Islam, Makhdoom Shah Muhammad Qureshi of Tehrik Insaf and others while making speeches in parliament demanded Mushraf trial from Oct 1999. According to them, the main crime was of toppling elected government and parliament and imposing emergency was lesser crime. Ms. Asma Jehangir leader of Human Rights Commission of Pakistan also demanded Musharraf trial from 1999. Farooq Sattar MNA of Mutehida Qaumi Movement demanded in parliament that all past army dictators should also be tried since 1956 when General Ghulam Muhammad had imposed Martial Law in Pakistan for the first time. It may be noted that PPP government during past five years did not bother to bring Musharraf to book, but offered him farewell with guard of honor. The caretaker Prime Minister Mir Hazar Khan Khoso also avoided to ask court to try Musharraf.

Now the brunt of burden has been thrown on shoulders of government of Pakistan Muslim League headed by Mian Nawaz Sharif that also at a time when party has hardly been in government since last only 3 weeks and also when the government has formed National Security Council comprising both civilian and military leaderhip in it with military having upper hand.

Ahmed Raza Qasuri, the lawyer of Musharraf, has said he would submit the list of 527 persons who collaborated and abetted with Gen. Musharraf in imposing army rule in the country. He has also said that he would submit this list in Supreme Court to try all these as co accused with Musharraf. He said that the Corps Commanders in 1999 who all endorsed Martial Law of Gen. Musharraf, the parliamentarians who passed 17th amendment in constitution to indemnify army action and Supreme Court judges who validated his action, all should be tried with him.

However it seems to be very difficult to believe that the army would not react on trial of their former chief. The proceedings seems to be lingering on until the present army chief General Pervez Kiyani, President Asif Zardari and Chief Justice Iftikhar Chowhdry (who are all to retire before the end of 2013) are replaced. The proceedings under high treason against General Mushraf seems to be no more than lip service and to befool the people who are interested in two square meals and end of power loadshedding that has reached 18 hours out of 24 hours. They want the end of largescale unemployment and price hike. They want elimination of terrorism that has been eroding the Pakistani society from within.They want safety of their lives, properties and honor.

[Abbas Kassar is a Jounalist in Hyderabad, Pakistan and presently working as bureau chief of daily Messenger Karachi and Lahore Times (online) and is a member of Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists and European Journalism Center. He can be reached at kassar_hyd@yahoo.com or on his phone at 92 3453585137]
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