Thursday, August 13, 2009

The charge of treason - "Musharraf booked for detaining judges: police"

by M. Ulric Killion

Pakistani leaders have filed treason charges against Pakistan’s former leader Pervez Musharraf. The treason charges relate to his detention of about sixty (60) members of the judiciary or judges of the Supreme Court. The illegal detention of these judges occurred during Musharraf’s 2007-imposition of emergency rule. The pending charges have the potential of brewing an international crisis, as the government of Britain lobbies Pakistani leaders to spare Musharraf from the charges of treason. (Photo: Julian Simmonds).

As news sources are generally reporting, [Xinhua, Musharraf booked for detaining judges: police, Aug. 12, 2009], - ISLAMABAD: Police in the Pakistani capital Tuesday registered a case against former President Pervez Musharraf for illegally detaining top judges during 2007 emergency rule a day after a court called for registration of the case, police said. Up to 60 judges including chief justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, were sacked and put under house arrest when they refused to show loyalty to Musharraf. 

Musharraf was charged under various sections which carry at least three-year jail term, said Liaquat Niazi, Deputy Superintendent of Police at Secretariat Police Station, where the case was registered. Niazi said that all aspects will be reviewed during the investigation as to which police officers and officials in Islamabad followed instructions from the former president. A lawyer Aslam Iqbal Ghuman had filed a petition in the district court Islamabad, requesting the judge to order the police to register case against the former military president. Ghuman told reporters that he will also name more people to be booked in the case when he will record his statement with the police.
The petitioner said that the former President had put under house arrest the Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chuadhry and around 60 judges of highest judiciary and their families when he imposed emergency rule on November 3, 2007. He argued that President Asif Ali Zardari restored the judges on their November 2, 2007 positions and said that Musharraf's action was not only illegal but also an insult to the judiciary. The judges had lost jobs after they refused to take oath under the Provisional Constitutional Order (PCO) after Musharraf suspended the country's Constitution.
Musharraf, currently in London, resigned in August 2008 to avoid impeachment by the parliament. On July 31, Supreme Court ruled that former president Pervez Musharraf's decision to impose emergency rule and dismiss dozens of senior judges was unconstitutional. A 14-member Supreme Court bench headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry had summoned Musharraf to appear in person or through a lawyer to explain his position, but the ex-president ignored the notice. Opposition leader and former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif demands of the government to put Musharraf on trial for suspending constitution (Xinhua, 2009).

In the interim, and as earlier mentioned, the government of Britain is lobbying Pakistani leaders, more particularly the Pakistan Muslim League, to spare the former leader Pervez Musharraf from treason charges. According to senior opposition figures, the charges of treason are punishable by the death penalty (Dean Nelson in New Delhi and Javed Siddiq in Islamabad,, Aug. 12, 2009). 

As for the efforts being made by Britain, “Sir Mark Lyall Grant, political director of the Foreign Office and a former High Commissioner in Islamabad, was reported to have visited the former premier Nawaz Sharif and urged him not to press for Mr. Musharraf to be extradited to Pakistan to face trial over his imposition of emergency rule in November 2007” (Nelson and Siddiq, 2009).

However, “British sources denied Sir Mark had intervened on behalf of Mr. Musharraf, who now lives in London, but stressed the need to avoid any ‘distraction’ from creating regional stability. Despite Britain's intervention, Mr. Sharif [the leader of the Pakistan Muslim League] appears determined to bring Mr. Musharraf back from the UK, where he is staying under Pakistani government protection, to face a trial for treason under Article 6 of its constitution. If convicted he would face the death penalty. Pakistan's Chief Justice, Muhammad Iftikhar Chaudhry, has already ruled that Mr. Musharraf broke the constitution when he imposed emergency rule and sacked seven supreme court judges in November 2007. A case has been registered against him for holding these judges under house arrest, for which he could face three years in jail. But Mr. Sharif believes he must also face treason charges to discourage military chiefs from seizing power in the future. ‘We should go on with it. Something must be done if we are to prevent another military takeover,’ said an aide” (Nelson and Siddiq, 2009).
For the moment, Britain stands alone, while also having to deal with the consequence of Musharraf, after his 2008 resignation, currently residing in Britain. However, Britain’s plea for Pakistan to spare Musharraf, which is supposedly in the greater interest of regional stability, may eventually garner support from other countries. This is because the substance of Britain’s plea that Pakistan spares Musharraf in the interest of regional stability is, actually, couched in the language of Parkistan not becoming distracted from its progress in pursuing al-Qaeda and Taliban fighters. Growing international support for Britain’s call to spare Musharraf from treason charges, as so couched, may well serve to challenge the reticence of Pakistani leaders, or perhaps more accurately, the reticence of former premier Nawaz Sharif and the Pakistan Muslim League.

Copyright © Protected - All Rights Reserved M. Ulric Killion, 2009.

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