The reactions to the Supreme Court’s verdict in the Asghar Khan case continued, with former COAS Gen (retd) Mirza Aslam Beg saying that he should be tried under military rules for violating the Constitution, and there should not be what he called a ‘media trial’ of military officials. However, on the same day, Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, while addressing the Abbottabad Bar Association, said that the system must run under the law and Constitution, and that it is here to stay. General Beg, along with former DG ISI Lt Gen (retd) Asad Durrani, has had an investigation ordered against him for having been behind the distribution of money to PPP opponents in the 1990 elections. Chief Justice Chaudhry thus not only made clear the basis of the decision, but also indicated how General Beg and General Durrani should be treated: according to the law. General Beg may be angling for special treatment, but there is no recourse for it in any circumstance, especially given the extremely grave defiances of the constitution and rules of his oath that he has been found guilty of. That might very well raise questions about why such special treatment exists, and indeed, that such discrimination itself is unconstitutional.

Chief Justice Chaudhry has been as firm in ruling out the possibility of any clash of institutions following this verdict, as has the current COAS, Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani. The clash foreseen is between the military and the judiciary. Whereas the Chief Justice’s declaration that no one dare derail the system is taken to mean that no future military rule will have any legal cover given to it, as happened in the past; General Kayani’s statement about the Asghar Khan case is being taken to mean that there is no danger of a takeover. Chief Justice Chaudhry’s remarks should also be taken to mean that the usual plea of ‘national interest’ will not work, and the Supreme Court will test every action of executive authorities by the Constitution, and any law under it. That means that the rule of law is to be implemented.

General Beg’s claim implies that he expects more favourable treatment under military rules. This surprise at the verdict being against him and other former officers, is in itself telling of how those who have been guilty of subverting the constitution and pretending to do so in the name of national interest, may still not have learnt their lesson. Submitting themselves to the mercy of the law is the only chance they now have to demonstrate that they are willing to accept the verdict. Let it thus be done.