LAHORE - When he stepped down in September 2008 under tremendous pressure, almost all political parties distanced themselves from Gen Pervez Musharraf. This was in line with their political interests and their culture of opportunism.
He was treated like an outcast – even by those leaders and parties who could not dream of coming to power without his support.
Not only this, his once strong supporters joined hands with PML-N, the party everyone knows abhors Gen Musharraf and wants to give him the severest punishment for toppling the Nawaz Sharif government in October 1999 and then banishing the Sharif family to Saudi Arabia. All turncoats were received with open arms by this party which otherwise preaches politics of principles and values.
However, now the thinking of various parties appears to be turning in favour of Musharraf. These parties are aware of the relevance of the army in politics and, by supporting a former COAS, want to stay as partners of the defenders of Pakistan.
A very strong statement in support of Gen Musharraf has come from the leadership of PML-Q which was known as the king’s party during 2002-2008. This party turned its back on Musharraf after he struck a political deal with PPP, which paved the way for the party of Benazir Bhutto to return to power, leaving PML-Q as a defeated force.
PML-Q President Chaudhry Shujaat Husain supported Gen Musharraf’s claim that he had consulted all relevant military and political stakeholders before imposing Emergency on Nov 3, 2007.
Most of other allies and supporters of the former president say that it was an individual act of the then president.
Shujaat says he was among those consulted by Musharraf, a stand which will put the deniers into an embarrassing position. He further strengthened the hands of the former president-COAS by demanding that Gen Kayani and ex-CJP Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry should also be tried on the charge of violating the Constitution.
Another PML-Q leader Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi went a step further. He said if Gen Musharraf was a ‘traitor’, as being alleged, why PML-N ministers had taken oath from him before joining the PPP-led coalition after the 2008 elections.
Muttahida Qaumi Movement chief Altaf Hussain says singling out Musharraf for a treason trial is unconstitutional. He supports the call for trying Gen Kayani and Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry. “If the treason case is to progress, then it should also be against every individual who directly or indirectly, overtly or covertly supported General Pervez Musharraf, including political and religious leaders, generals, judges, institution or institutions.”
Pakistan Awami Tehrik leader Dr Tahirul Qadri says the trial of Gen Musharraf is a personal vendetta. He says the judges and politicians who took oath of office at the hands of Musharraf, and the present rulers who are protégé of military dictator Ziaul Haq should also be proceeded against under Article 6 of the Constitution. He said if the martial law imposed by Gen Musharraf was unconstitutional, the same was the case with the martial law of General Ziaul Haq. He said all should be held answerable for their actions without any discrimination.
Senior PPP leader Khursheed Shah is also of the view that all those who had taken part in the October 12, 1999, coup or had validated military intervention should also be put on trial. He thinks that those who want to be Musharraf-specific are trying to save dozens of others responsible for violating the Constitution.
Although what other PPP leaders say on this subject is not in conformity with the viewpoint of Gen Musharraf, it is also not supportive of the PML-N’s position. PML-N, Jamaat-e-Islami, Awami National Party and Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaaf are the major parties that want Musharraf tried on the treason charge.
A division among political parties on this important issue means a shift in support of the former army chief. Many people say the real objective of the PML-N behind this trial is to make the army subservient to the political government. The leadership of this party believes that once this institution is ‘conquered’ it will be able to govern the country the way it wants.
However, it is premature to say whether the target will be achieved. Before ‘surrendering’ to the political leadership, the army will certainly minutely review the policies of the present rulers, especially their enthusiasm to improve ties with India, putting the Kashmir dispute on the backburner. The army, apparently, will never give the government a free hand to do so. The outcome of the trial of Gen Musharraf will be indicative of the shape of things to come.