The Sindh High Court’s (SHC) decision to remove Musharraf’s name from the Exit Control List (ECL) gives the government fifteen days to file an appeal in the Supreme Court against the ruling. If the PML-N does not file an appeal in the stipulated timeframe, Musharraf will be allowed to leave the country and will only face justice if he finds it in his heart to return to the country. Reportedly, Musharraf is already preparing a request for the Interior Ministry to let him leave the country before the waiting period of fifteen days is over, citing his mother’s illness, and his own health issues as reasons for the urgency.

Both the Supreme Court and the Special Court had dismissed earlier requests to remove Musharraf’s name from the ECL, which raises questions over the SHC’s ruling. Earlier, refusals of the request were predicated on the federal government’s decision for the inclusion of his name to the ECL, which the courts did not want to supersede. But the SHC sees things differently. How exactly was this appeal different from the ones the defendant put forth in other courts, and what prompted the SHC to issue this ruling?

His legal counsel maintains that Musharraf is not afraid of facing the music, and maintain that his visit to the UAE will not be indefinite. Questions of courage aside, the government cannot reasonably fathom the retired general will magnanimously return to the country with an active desire to be tried for treason. The charges levied against Musharraf make him a flight risk. This trial will set a precedent, for good or ill. If Musharraf is allowed to escape justice then the status quo will prevail, and the abrogation of the constitution will go unpunished in the future as well. But a fair trial will go a long way in making political transgressions more accountable.

Political parties such as the PPP, ANP and JI are not happy with the SHC’s decision, and will undoubtedly expect the government to make an appeal. This the government must do, but graciously, without resorting to issuing statements from within government as in the past, which might incur the serious displeasure of the army. The army’s silence is dependent on the discretion of the whole affair, and statements like the one Khawaja Asif made in the recent past will be welcomed by the supporters of Musharraf, who are counting on the government to take one wrong step, to make some serious error of judgment in the way this trial is handled; anything to garner more support for the ex-dictator.