LAHORE - Barring some unforeseen development, the gulf between the government and the army, created as a result of the indictment of former president-COAS Gen Pervez Musharraf on high treason charge and the peace talks with the Taliban, has become unbridgeable. However, nobody is in a position to predict its likely fallout, knowledgeable sources say.
While the government is determined to take the treason case to its logical conclusion, the army is finding it hard to digest the humiliation of its former boss.
The interior ministry has already rejected Gen Musharraf’s request for permission to go abroad to inquire after his ailing mother and for his own treatment. He is now expected to approach the superior courts to challenge this decision. However, even if his plea is accepted by court, the government will not let him leave the country to assert the supremacy of parliament.
According to highly informed sources, to block the former army chief’s travel abroad the government plans to enact a special legislation. Under the proposed enactment, no accused facing the high treason charge would be allowed to leave the country on any pretext.
It is claimed that Gen Musharraf was brought to the special court with an assurance by the government to the army leadership that after indictment the former president-COAS would be allowed to leave the country. However, once the three-judge bench completed the process, the government refused to honour its word.
A federal minister alleged a couple of days ago that rumours about government-army differences over the trial of Gen Pervez Musharraf are being spread by elements who thrived during dictatorships. This, he said, was part of a conspiracy to destabilise the country.
A few days after being indicted, Gen Musharraf moved to his Chak Shehzad farmhouse from the Armed Forces Institute of Cardiology, where he stayed for about three months. There are unconfirmed reports that he may move to a Karachi medical facility for treatment.
Legal and constitutional experts say that after formal indictment the government has no power to withdraw the case against the former president-COAS. “There’s no such provision in the law,” said a senior lawyer, implying that a reconciliation on this issue is not possible now.
This, he said, means that the case has to go on.
Most people say that in case Gen Musharraf is convicted, the army will face still more embarrassment.
Army Chief Gen Raheel Sharif has already expressed his institution’s annoyance over the way Gen Musharraf is being humiliated.
During his recent visit to the SSG headquarters, he said the Pakistan Army upholds the sanctity of all institutions and will resolutely preserve its own dignity and institutional pride.
While some ministers claim that Gen Raheel’s remarks did not refer to Gen Musharraf’s treatment, most of the observers have a different point of view.
Some newspapers quoted military sources as saying that the Army Chief’s visit had been organised to send a strong message to the government. The ISPR statement issued after the visit said the COAS made the remarks in response to the ‘concerns of soldiers on undue criticism of the institution (of the army) in recent days.
The government’s talks with the Taliban and the consequent release of various prisoners have also annoyed the army.
The government, an official said, doesn’t know the background of the prisoners it is releasing. “The army is not even on the same book, leave alone the same page,” the official said, implying the seriousness of differences on the subject.
It is said the government could have taken a different decision on sending Pakistani troops to some countries if the army chief had not expressed his difference of opinion.
It may be recalled that Mian Nawaz Sharif did not have good terms with all the army chiefs he worked with during the past two terms. They included Gen Mirza Aslam Beg, Gen Asif Nawaz Janjua, Gen Jehangir Karamat and Gen Musharraf. (He had forced Gen Karamat to resign).
Army officials, including the retirees, think efforts are being made to make the army completely subservient to the government.
A senior retired general, while expressing his view in a TV talk show a few days ago, criticised the PML-N government for its humiliating attitude towards Gen Musharraf. If the government wanted to prevent a takeover, this was not the right way to achieve the target, he said.
He further said better governance was the most effective way of preventing takeovers, but it was not seen during the past ten months.
The former general also referred to media reports that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had sought his Turkish counterpart’s advice on ‘reining in’ the army. The situation in Pakistan is not comparable to the one in Turkey, the ex-general said.