The Pervez Musharraf treason case appears to be heading nowhere as the former dictator remains admitted in the Armed Forces Institute of Cardiology (AFIC). The special court set-up for the purpose of the treason trial has been unable to do anything other than delay hearings on account of Mr Musharraf’s inability to appear before it. Previously, the court has warned of issuing arrest warrants if Mr Musharraf failed to obey court orders. As Mr Musharraf took a surprising detour to the AFIC amidst reports of heart ailment, the esteemed judges were left with no choice but to set another date for the trial.
As Mr Musharraf remains inside the hospital, the rest of the country is habitually indulged in speculation. Since he is admitted in a military-run hospital, it has raised serious questions over the stance of the armed forces with regards to the case. Some believe it is symbolic of the military’s position; it stands behind its ex-chief. Others claim that it is not so as the elected government would never have gone so far at the risk of damaging civil-military relations. No matter how many times the Defense Minister assures of the armed forces’ neutrality, it seems that only a press release by the ISPR itself will relieve onlookers of their suspicions. The visit by the Saudi Foreign Minister, Saud Al-Faisal, has added its own set of possibilities to the mix, as foreign intervention can never be ruled out in the “internal matters” of Pakistan.
But, the show will continue as long as the court proceedings face delay. It is understandable why the court would want Mr Musharraf to be present in person, but clearly, matters are not heading towards the desired direction. The fact is that the case can proceed even if Mr Musharraf doesn’t show up. There is no legal compulsion. Representation by lawyers is sufficient enough for the case to proceed. Mr Musharraf’s self-appointed lawyers have been appearing before the court whenever they have been summoned, but unfortunately, only to answer questions with regards to the whereabouts of their client. Perhaps, its time the courts stop insisting on the most desirable, and focus on the most important.
The purpose of this whole exercise is not to exact revenge, or mock. It is to establish a fundamental principle. No one is above the law. Everyone is accountable for their actions. If institutional boundaries are to be defined, and more significantly, firmly established, the trial must go on. A message needs to be sent that no more will anyone, in any position, on the basis of personal judgment, be allowed to violate the constitution of Pakistan. Musharraf in a court of law or on a hospital bed, it doesn’t matter. All that is required is a verdict.