FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

No Pardon for Musharraf

Pakistan’s newly-elected Parliament meets on Monday, March 17, to form a new government. Monday is “democracy day” ending the eight years of military rule. Former Army Chief Pervez Musharraf, however, refuses to step down and claims to be the nation’s lawful President. Close to a two-thirds majority of the Parliament and an overwhelming majority of lawyers of Pakistan see Musharraf as a usurper. Facing a hostile Parliament and an uncompromising Bar, Musharraf would offer to make a deal. He would relinquish power if he could safely leave the country (and perhaps fly away to the United States).

This essay argues that Pakistan’s Parliament must not pardon Musharraf, openly or secretly. The people of Pakistan want their day in court.
Musharraf’s Crimes

The lawyers of Pakistan see Musharraf as a criminal who unlawfully occupies the nation’s highest office. Musharraf has committed numerous crimes. Two, however, stand out. On November 3, 2007, Musharraf suspended the Constitution exercising the non-existent powers of the Army Chief. Neither the Constitution, national laws, nor the Military Code confers power on the Army Chief to proclaim emergency and suspend the Constitution. Musharraf has presumptively committed the constitutional crime of high treason and his continuing occupation of the office of President is unlawful.

The Constitution mandates that the Parliament “by law provide for the punishment of persons found guilty of high treason.” In exercising this power, however, the Parliament must respect international standards and the national criminal justice system that confer numerous rights on criminal defendants. Article 10 of the Constitution, which Musharraf suspended during the November 2007 Proclamation of Emergency, requires that the person in custody be “informed of the grounds for such arrest. . . and not be denied the right to consult and be defended by a legal practitioner of his choice.”

In addition to perpetrating the crime of high treason, Musharraf committed the crime of massacre. In July, 2007, after prolonging a manufactured showdown with seminarians in the Red Mosque located in Islamabad, Musharraf ordered the killings of innocent men, women, and children trapped within the Mosque. In asserting the rule of law, the Supreme Court ordered an investigation of the massacre. Compounding his crime, Musharraf charged the Supreme Court with supporting terrorism. And exercising the non-existent powers of the Army Chief, Musharraf fired and arrested numerous top judges of the high courts, including the Chief Justice who still has not been freed. Musharraf’s lawyers will have to explain to the trial court whether the Army Chief, in committing the crime of massacre, has the authority to openly subvert the integrity and dignity of the judiciary.
Resisting Foreign Pressure

In prosecuting Musharraf for high treason and other crimes, the new Pakistani government might come under some foreign pressure to pardon Musharraf. Except for the United States, however, many nations would see Musharraf’s criminal prosecution as Pakistan’s internal matter. European nations will not support a despised dictator. China rarely caters to losers and is unlikely to raise the issue with the new government. Saudi Arabia will not rescue a self-appointed reformer of Islam. India will only harm Musharraf if it supports him.

That leaves the United States in the field alone. The Bush administration may pressure Pakistan’s new government to pardon Musharraf. Soon after the February elections, Bush encouraged Musharraf to stay as Pakistan’s Head of the State. That commitment has now dramatically weakened, and rightfully so. The United States cannot risk alienating the people of Pakistan and the new government for the sake of a former dictator who has lost the military uniform, popularity, and constitutional legitimacy. For pragmatic American policymakers, Musharraf has outlived his utility; and the time is ripe to ditch a useless operator.

As a possible favor to Musharraf, the Bush administration might ask the new government for his safe exit to the United States. Many in the Bush administration, however, will vote against pressuring the new government to do so because Musharraf has been a duplicitous ally, frequently caught running with the hare and hunting with the hounds. Certainly Musharraf has killed Muslim militants in Pakistan but not in sufficient numbers to have earned a White House medal of gratitude.

Suppose the Bush administration coerces the new Pakistani government to furnish a safe passage for Musharraf. In such a case, Pakistan’s democracy must resist pressure, assert its sovereignty, and persuade the Bush administration that Musharraf’s prosecution for high treason will support and not hurt US interests. If Musharraf is prosecuted for constitutional subversion without American interference, the people of Pakistan will appreciate American commitment to democracy in the Muslim world. If persuasion does not work, saying no to Bush is good for America and a matter of self-respect for Pakistan.

In sum, strong democracies punish constitutional subversions but week democracies do not. And by punishing constitutional subversions, democracies are further strengthened. Pakistan needs to make a strong decision. Fortunately, the usurper is positioned as a sitting duck. He has lost all covers that shielded his raw powers. He is no longer the Army Chief, and cannot order the armed forces to stand behind him. The “King’s Party” that propped his lawlessness for years cannot help for it has been thoroughly defeated in the general elections. The Constitution cannot guard Musharraf because Musharraf, as the President’s oath requires, did not “preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.” The Parliament must hold Musharraf accountable.

Ali Khan is professor of law at Washburn University School of Law in Topeka, Kansas, and the author of the book, A Theory of Universal Democracy (2003). He can be reached at: ali.khan@washburn.edu

 

 

 

 

More articles by:

December 17, 2018
Susan Abulhawa
Marc Lamont Hill’s Detractors are the True Anti-Semites
Jake Palmer
Viktor Orban, Trump and the Populist Battle Over Public Space
Martha Rosenberg
Big Pharma Fights Proposal to Keep It From Looting Medicare
David Rosen
December 17th: International Day to End Violence against Sex Workers
Binoy Kampmark
The Case that Dare Not Speak Its Name: the Conviction of Cardinal Pell
Dave Lindorff
Making Trump and Other Climate Criminals Pay
Bill Martin
Seeing Yellow
Julian Vigo
The World Google Controls and Surveillance Capitalism
ANIS SHIVANI
What is Neoliberalism?
James Haught
Evangelicals Vote, “Nones” Falter
Martin Billheimer
Late Year’s Hits for the Hanging Sock
Weekend Edition
December 14, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
A Tale of Two Cities
Peter Linebaugh
The Significance of The Common Wind
Bruce E. Levine
The Ketamine Chorus: NYT Trumpets New Anti-Suicide Drug
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Fathers and Sons, Bushes and Bin Ladens
Kathy Deacon
Coffee, Social Stratification and the Retail Sector in a Small Maritime Village
Nick Pemberton
Praise For America’s Second Leading Intellectual
Robert Hunziker
The Yellow Vest Insurgency – What’s Next?
Patrick Cockburn
The Yemeni Dead: Six Times Higher Than Previously Reported
Nick Alexandrov
George H. W. Bush: Another Eulogy
Brian Cloughley
Principles and Morality Versus Cash and Profit? No Contest
Michael F. Duggan
Climate Change and the Limits of Reason
Victor Grossman
Sighs of Relief in Germany
Ron Jacobs
A Propagandist of Privatization
Robert Fantina
What Does Beto Have Against the Palestinians?
Richard Falk – Daniel Falcone
Sartre, Said, Chomsky and the Meaning of the Public Intellectual
Andrew Glikson
Crimes Against the Earth
Robert Fisk
The Parasitic Relationship Between Power and the American Media
Stephen Cooper
When Will Journalism Grapple With the Ethics of Interviewing Mentally Ill Arrestees?
Jill Richardson
A War on Science, Morals and Law
Ron Jacobs
A Propagandist of Privatization
Evaggelos Vallianatos
It’s Not Easy Being Greek
Nomi Prins 
The Inequality Gap on a Planet Growing More Extreme
John W. Whitehead
Know Your Rights or You Will Lose Them
David Swanson
The Abolition of War Requires New Thoughts, Words, and Actions
J.P. Linstroth
Primates Are Us
Bill Willers
The War Against Cash
Jonah Raskin
Doris Lessing: What’s There to Celebrate?
Ralph Nader
Are the New Congressional Progressives Real? Use These Yardsticks to Find Out
Binoy Kampmark
William Blum: Anti-Imperial Advocate
Medea Benjamin – Alice Slater
Green New Deal Advocates Should Address Militarism
John Feffer
Review: Season 2 of Trump Presidency
Rich Whitney
General Motors’ Factories Should Not Be Closed. They Should Be Turned Over to the Workers
Christopher Brauchli
Deported for Christmas
Kerri Kennedy
This Holiday Season, I’m Standing With Migrants
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail