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Bilawal Bhutto takes jibe at government over Musharaf case

Chairman Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Bilawal Bhutto Zardari on Wednesday took a dig at sitting government by asking who was running the “save your father” campaign now, in an apparent reference to the PTI government’s reaction on a Special Court verdict awarding death sentence to former president Pervez Musharraf in high treason case.
Notably, Prime Minister Imran Khan has summoned Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) core committee meeting on Wednesday evening as per the sources.
The core committee will hold discussions over the developing situation following the special court’s verdict of sentencing former president and top military official Pervez Musharraf to death in high treason case and formulate future strategies.
It is important to note that PTI ministers had reacted to the judgment and said that it would give rise to rifts between institutions.

Death For The Dictator: Interplay Of Pakistan’s Politics, Military And Judiciary – Analysis

By Sushant Sareen

As things stand in Pakistan, the army and the government claim to be on the same page. The judiciary — for now — is standing apart.
The Special Court trying the former Pakistani military dictator Gen. Pervez Musharraf on charges of treason has pronounced the death sentence on him. Musharraf is unique in Pakistan’s history. He is not only the first usurper to be prosecuted under Article 6 (which defines high treason) of Pakistan’s much-abused constitution, but also the first dictator to have carried out not one but two coups.
Musharraf’s first coup was in 1999 when he overthrew the elected government of Nawaz Sharif. His second coup was carried out in 2007 when he declared an ‘emergency’, not as president of Pakistan but in his capacity as army chief — he was wearing both hats at the time. The first coup had been indemnified by the parliament that had been constituted after the 2002 election, but the second coup was never indemnified. It is this second coup for which he was tried and found guilty of treason, and now — sentenced to death.
The ‘selected’ government of Prime Minister Imran Khan had tried very hard to prevent the Special Court which had been constituted by Nawaz Sharif in 2013 from announcing the judgment in this case. The fact that the Imran Khan government is stacked with former associates of Musharraf — the interior minister Ejaz Shah was Intelligence Bureau chief and a crony of Musharraf, who openly opposed his sentencing; Law Minister Farogh Naseem was his defense lawyer in the trial as was the Attorney General Anwar Mansoor — meant that all sorts of obstacles were placed in the path of bringing the former president and army chief to justice.
Days before the Special Court was to give its ruling, the government started to play the fiddle with the judicial process. First, the government sacked the entire prosecution team, even though the prosecution had already rested its case. Then, the government (which was technically the complainant) filed a petition seeking a bar on the Special Court from announcing its verdict.
The Islamabad High Court restrained the Special Court from pronouncing the verdict until Musharraf (who was absconding and had never appeared before the court) was given another chance to defend himself. Meanwhile, the Lahore High Court jumped in and questioned the entire basis of the treason trial. But in the end, the Special Court decided to bite the bullet and announce the verdict.
In some ways, the death sentence for Musharraf is only symbolic. Chances are that Musharraf, who is reportedly very sick and unlikely to ever come back alive to Pakistan (he is currently living in UAE), will never be actually hanged.
Apart from all legal challenges that are likely to be mounted and the lengths to which the army will go to ensure that this ruling dies before Musharraf — the army didn’t even allow Musharraf to be present in court and had whisked him away to a hospital and then later orchestrated, rather forced the judiciary and the then government to allow him to leave the country, is certainly not going to allow him to be ‘humiliated’, much less hanged by the ‘bloody civilians.’
Nevertheless, even though dictators before Musharraf have also had their actions ruled unconstitutional by the courts — always after they were no longer in power — the fact that a former army chief has now been pronounced guilty under Article 6 could have serious repercussions on the politics of Pakistan.
Coming as it does amidst the entire controversy over the extension given to the current army chief and the Supreme Court demanding that parliament make a law on the issue of terms of service of the chiefs of the armed forces, the Musharraf ruling is not likely to be received well by the all-powerful military in Pakistan. It isn’t so much about Musharraf the person — he is irrelevant — but more about Musharraf the former chief.
In other words, the impact of the current spate of rulings against the military — the Peshawar High Court declaring the ‘internment centers’ unconstitutional, the Supreme Court ruling on the extension issue and now the Musharraf sentence — on the corporate interests of the Pakistan Army and the dent on its supremacy will almost certainly invite a big push back.
Questions will definitely be raised, and conspiracy theories conjured up, about what the judiciary is trying to do by taking on the army so directly. Are the judges trying to emerge as a power centre of their own rather than remaining ‘Lions under the Throne’? Or is it all part of a game of smoke and mirrors, the byzantine intrigues that are so Pakistan? The reason for such questions is simple.
For all its grandstanding, the judiciary in Pakistan has always known its limits and limitations, especially when it comes to the army. So what has changed that the judges are now displaying such intrepidness? What or who is behind the Pakistani judges having suddenly discovered their spine? It is after all the same judiciary that virtually summarily sacked a judge of the Islamabad High Court for accusing the ISI of trying to influence him to rule against Nawaz Sharif.
It is also the same judiciary that put in the dock a brother judge, Qazi Faez Isa, who dared to pass strictures against the ISI and state machinery for backing terrorists and extremists. It is the same judiciary that treated with kid gloves a mass murderer police officer, Rao Anwar, who has been under the protection of the military’s intelligence agencies.
Whatever the reason for the assertion of the judiciary against the military, it is now going to prompt a new interplay between the civilian government, military, opposition and the judiciary.
The civilian government is already showing signs of exasperation with the judges, not just over its rulings on matters related to the military but also the relief it has been giving to bêtes noires of the current regime, namely the Sharif family and Asif Zardari. The first salvo against the judiciary was fired when the government amended the rules of the parliamentary committee on judicial appointments in order to interview candidates for the various high courts. This is being seen as the first challenge to the judiciary which has arrogated to itself the right to appoint judges without any real oversight by parliament.
Although the opposition parties have welcomed this change, it will probably weigh its options on how far to go with the government (which has been brazenly hounding it) to rein in the judiciary.
The military will also be smarting under the rebuffs it has received at the hands of the judges. Given that the current army chief will want the opposition’s cooperation to get the law on his extension passed without much ado (otherwise it would make him even more controversial), he will also be looking to reach out to the opposition parties. The quid pro quo with the opposition could however rub the government the wrong way. Unless the entire political class closes ranks and the army backs them, it will be difficult to rein in the judges, who would also try and protect their turf by aligning and cutting deals with the other components of the power structure.
The thing is that over the last decade or so the Pakistani power structure comprises a quartet — army, civilian government, opposition and judiciary. Unless three components of this quartet get together, it is difficult to take action against the fourth. As things stand, the army and the government claim to be on the same page. The judiciary for now is standing apart. If the opposition girds itself up, closes ranks and backs the judges, then it will be difficult for the government and military to do very much without shaking up the system to its core.
If however, the opposition remains split with various members trying to cut their own deals with the government and the military, then it will be relatively easier for the military and government to clip the wings of the judges and make them compliant. There is also the possibility of the military and opposition closing ranks (because of reports of some unhappiness in the army with the sheer incompetence and ineptness of Imran Khan and his cronies) and the government and judiciary remaining at odds. In the event, it will be curtains for Imran Khan and there is a good chance of the judiciary receiving its comeuppance.
The power dynamics in Pakistan are in a state of flux. The old equilibrium has been disturbed and there is a new realignment of forces underway to reach a new equilibrium, even if an unstable one. The events flowing out of the Musharraf verdict will only add more urgency in the quest for this new symmetry.

Opinion: A clear message to the Pakistani military

A court has handed the death sentence to ex-ruler Pervez Musharraf. Although the capital punishment must be opposed, the verdict is a warning to the military that it must stay out of politics, says DW's Shamil Shams.
Let's be assured that former military dictator Pervez Musharraf will not be executed after a special court awarded him the death sentence in a highly unexpected verdict on Tuesday. Also, no matter how serious the crime, we must never endorse the capital punishment.
The Pakistani military is an immensely powerful institution, so much so that all civilian institutions, including the judiciary, have largely remained subservient to it for at least six decades. Musharraf is a former army chief, who ruled the country with an iron fist from 1999 to 2008. Although he now lives in a self-imposed exile in the UAE, he is respected by the current military commanders for his "services" during his tenure.
Also, the military will never want its ex-chief to be hanged. It would significantly dent its image and curtail its political power in the country.
The court verdict has already done a lot of damage to the army. The symbolic value of the ruling should not be underestimated. It sends out a clear message to the military generals that they are not above the law; that they could also be tried and punished for suspending and violating the constitution. It is a message that the military must abide by their constitutional role and not interfere in politics.
The powerful military would most likely ensure that Musharraf is not harmed in any way. And there are legal ways to counter the special court's verdict. Musharraf can still challenge the decision in the Supreme Court. There, the death sentence could be reversed or diluted. Pakistan's judiciary has a chequered record of endorsing military coups and has time and again provided legal cover to military dictators. So a different decision from superior courts cannot be ruled out.
Civilian assertion
But politics in Pakistan has changed a lot in the past decade. Civilian institutions are increasingly asserting themselves against the army.
During his third term as premier (2013-2017), former PM Nawaz Sharif — who was ousted in a bloodless military coup by Musharraf in 1999 — tried to rein in the military's powers. The industrialist-premier wanted to forge closer ties with India so that Pakistan could do away with the "security state" narrative. This, he believed, would bring in more foreign investment into the country and ultimately diminish the military's power.
Other institutions, too, are taking an independent line. We must not forget that Musharraf's ouster was only made possible because of a massive lawyers' movement in 2007. Recently, Asif Saeed Khosa, the Supreme Court chief justice, only conditionally approved the tenure extension for General Qamar Javed Bajwa, the country's army chief. Now Prime Minister Imran Khan must pass a law in parliament to support his government's decision to grant a second term to the army chief.
The military finds itself in a precarious situation, with an independent media and a growing civil society also raising their voice. The military's involvement in politics is being slammed more than ever in Pakistan, which must be a cause of concern for military leadership.
A new social contract
Meanwhile, international pressure on the Pakistani military has also been on the rise. In October, the Paris-based Financial Action Task Force group gave Pakistan four months to prove it was fighting terror financing. Since coming to power, US President Donald Trump has also substantially reduced American military aid for Pakistan.
But that does not mean that the military will not fight back. And a clash of institutions in a nuclear-armed country with countless Islamist groups is not a very pleasant thought. Therefore, what Pakistan needs now is a new social contract that ensures that all state institutions function within their constitutional ambit.
It is also high time that the military generals sit together, surrender some of their powers and accept the civilians' right to rule the country. A country like Pakistan, which sits on many geopolitical fault-lines, cannot afford a prolonged intra-institutional confrontation.

Saudi Arabia, Pakistan snub Malaysia's Muslim summit

Joseph Sipalan, Stephen Kalin
Leaders from many Islamic nations including Turkey and Iran gathered in Malaysia on Wednesday to tackle issues that have agitated Muslims worldwide, but the summit was snubbed by Saudi Arabia and its close ally Pakistan.
At a welcome dinner, Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said the Kuala Lumpur Summit would aim to “do something” to improve the lives of Muslims and overcome Islamophobia.
“We need to find a way to address our shortcomings, our dependency on non-Muslims to protect ourselves against the enemies of Islam,” said Mahathir, 94, the world’s oldest head of government and one of its most outspoken. The four-day summit could also address mounting outrage over China’s camps for Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang - a subject that will doubtless upset Beijing.
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, who along with Mahathir and Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan had been a prime mover behind the summit, made a belated decision to skip the meeting.
Some Pakistani officials, unnamed because they are not authorized to speak to the media, said Khan pulled out under pressure from Saudi Arabia, though local media reported his officials denied that was the reason for the absence of the world’s second-most populous Muslim country from the meeting. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamid Al-Thani, whose countries have tense relations with Saudi Arabia, were at the gathering in Kuala Lumpur.
Saudi Arabia said the summit was the wrong forum for matters of importance to the world’s 1.75 billion Muslims, though some analysts suspected the kingdom feared being diplomatically isolated by regional rivals Iran, Qatar, and Turkey.
Saudi state news agency SPA reported that on a call with Mahathir on Tuesday, Saudi King Salman reaffirmed that such issues should be discussed through the Jeddah-based Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).
A Saudi source said the country declined to attend because the meeting was not being held under OIC auspices. The Saudi government’s center for international communication did not respond to a request for comment.