The once strongman and military dictator of Pakistan, General Pervez Musharraf is a worried man these days. Under house arrest since April, he faces a number of charges, the latest being treason that could send him to the gallows. While this is highly unlikely, his fall from grace and humiliation offer salutary lessons for would-be dictators.
December 29, 2013, 10:27 EST
General (retired) Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan’s former dictator and “strongman”, is having a rough time these days being forced to appear before a special court on treason charges. Even his commando training cannot help him in this. The charges are very serious and Musharraf is greatly concerned. If convicted, he could face the death penalty or at the very least life imprisonment. He has burst our claiming that the “whole army supports me.”
“I would say the whole army is upset. I have led the army from the front,” Musharraf told foreign reporters. “I have no doubt with the feedback that I received that the whole army is... totally with me on this issue.”
Even if true, this is seen as a veiled threat to the government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif telling him not to push his luck too far. It was in October 1999 that Musharraf had carried out a coup ousting Sharif from power. Musharraf denounced the treason charges against him as a “vendetta”. He said this in comments to Western media outlets today. He has been under house arrest since April, the first against a former army chief and one-time strongman.
The treason charges stem from Musharraf's imposition of emergency rule in November 2007 and suspension of the constitution. He had also demanded that judges take a new oath. When the then Chief Justice, Iftikhar Chaudhry refused, he was placed under house arrest. A legal and political crisis ensued forcing Musharraf first to resign as army chief and later, to resign as president as well in August 2008. He went into exile in Dubai and London but for some unexplained reason decided to return to Pakistan in March to participate in the general elections. He was barred from running and his troubles have mounted since.
Musharraf was charged with the murder of Baluch leader Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti (2006), attack on the Lal Masjid in Islamabad (July 2007) as well as the murder of Benazir Bhutto (December 2007). Now he faces treason charges. He is out on bail but his travails are far from over.
Most informed observers, however, are of the view that there will be a deal struck with the government under which Musharraf would be let go to spend his life in exile. He poses no political threat to Nawaz Sharif anymore and the trials etc are meant to embarrass Musharraf.