LAHORE - Hundreds of ex-servicemen, from the rank of general to major, assembled in sprawling Lahore city on Saturday to back Pervez Musharraf who is standing a trial for high treason.

The retired servicemen voiced support for the former military ruler and decided to set in motion a sustained movement for his protection. They decided to continue to get together to express concern over Musharraf’s trial in different parts of the county – possibly in Karachi the next time.

The meeting was hosted by Pakistan First – being represented by Rashid Qureshi, former director general of Inter-Services Public Relation and a close associate of Musharraf, and other organizers.

The overall impression of speeches and slogans of a charged section of retired soldiers was the concern over declaring Musharraf a traitor, holding his trial by a civil court and treating him in a manner that was not conveying positive vibes to defenders of the frontiers.

The gathering alleged treason trial of Musharraf was out of personal vendetta of PML-N government and outgoing chief justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry.

The gathering of up to 500 former army personnel also consisted three-star and two-star generals. These included former Punjab governor Khalid Maqbool, former navy chief Shahid Karimullah, Israr Ghumman, Afzal Muzaffar, Arshad Mahmood, Sajjad Akram, Zafar Hayat, Muhammad Ali, Shahid Hamid, Bajwa, Sarfraz, Sikandar, former IB DG Ijaz Shah, Javed Alam and Zafar.

In his key note address Dr Khalid Ranjha, who served as law minister during former PML-Q government, enlightened the gathering on various basic points relating to the case against Musharraf. Ex-navy chief Shahid Karimullah presented viewpoint of participants and their resolve to defend the former army chief.

Admiral Shahid, who after retirement in 2005 also served as Pakistan’s ambassador to Saudi Arabia till 2009, described Musharraf as a great person whose training and character did not admit of disloyalty, dishonesty and act against the national interests. He reminded of the time when the former military ruler visited Saudi Arabia during his ambassadorial service and how cordially the Saudi King had treated him to the extent of praying for his life and protection.

Shahid promised full support to Musharraf, and vowed not stay complacent, but to continue with struggle for his protection. He said it was indeed a big concern for a soldier when his/her army chief was dubbed a traitor. 

He asked the ex-servicemen in attendance to use the social media and move the Saudi authorities for justice with Musharraf. He particularly mentioned Saudi Arabia for the role it played in the case of Nawaz Sharif in 2000.

Dr Khalid Ranjha shed light on the history of high treason law starting from 1973 and its gradual development corresponding with that of the Army Act, 1952, which, he according to him, had taken to its side treason trial if serviceman perpetrated it in uniform.

In his view, GHQ permission was necessary if treason trial of Musharraf had to be initiated on the civil side; otherwise it merited a military court. It was necessary and in the interest of prestige and dignity of the institution of the armed forces, he added.

He pointed out that prime minister’s personal vendetta was involved in the matter, and said four governments had passed since the alleged offence was committed, but none took up the matter. He said the prime minister was a direct complainant in the case when the law provided that only the federal government was competent to become a complainant [which means the prime minister can institute the case only after consultation with the Cabinet and approval of the president which were missing in the instant case].

Ranjha said the bench had been constituted through the order of the former CJP when he himself was allegedly affected party. This all had created doubts about the trial, he went on to say.

He said which court to hear the trial was determined by the nature of offence or satisfaction of the accused that he would get justice through fair and impartial trial which, according to him, was under serious doubts in the instant case.

During the question-answer session, a former colonel grilled media for maligning Musharraf and holding his trial on screen. Irked over it, the newsmen present at the meeting wanted to present the media viewpoint and not to calm down until an apology was extended by the organizers and the colonel himself. Then, services of the media were acknowledged as meritorious as that of army personnel.

The proceedings of the event were concluded with the traditional slogan of Pakistan Zindabad – long live Pakistan.

INP adds: All Pakistan Muslim League (APML) chief and former president general (retd) Pervez Musharraf who is admitted to Armed Forces Institute of Cardiology (AFIC) in Rawalpindi was not allowed to address the retired army officials at Lahore through video link on Saturday.

Musharraf was scheduled to address the retired army personnel gathered at a local hotel in Lahore through video link but the doctors at AFIC did not allow him to do so.

Later, lawyers of the former president addressed the gathering and apprised them about the Musharraf case.