The special court on Friday reiterated the decision of the Islamabad High Court (IHC) in the treason trial of former president Pervez Musharraf and ordered a reinvestigation which should also focus on the role of abettors in the declaration of emergency in 2009. The special court verdict has cleared up the roadmap of the future as far as the federal government is concerned, but concerns still linger over the pace of the proceedings, which seem to be dragging on and on.

The federal government has to form a Joint Investigation Commission, compile previous hearings of this trial and conduct fresh investigation regarding former Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz, former chief justice Abdul Hamid Dogar and a sitting federal minister –Zahid Hamid – who was also the law minister in Aziz’s cabinet. Now that the special court has given its verdict, there should be no delays in getting the JIT up and running. The onus of expediting proceedings rests solely on the government, as the court has not given a deadline for the investigation to be completed. The December 17 deadline is a conditional one – if the investigation is not complete, then a progress report will suffice. This allows the government – if it wishes – to drag the case on for an extended amount of time, while still maintaining that it is actively pursuing the matter. Considering the lethargy it demonstrated in prosecuting the original trial, and given the changed civil-military imbalance, it is likely that this investigation may face a similar fate.

However the PML-N government has an opportunity to start afresh, it has a valid locus standi, a legitimate charge, a relatively free judiciary and the political power base to sustain the backlash – if any. The fate of Musharraf’s trial is linked to the future of military interventions in Pakistan, the longer the trial stays in limbo the more it damaging it becomes.