Escape puts focus on civil-military divide
The ease with which former military dictator Pervez Musharraf was able to escape arrest on Thursday morning has once again brought into sharp focus the civil-military divide in Pakistan. Even though General (retd) Musharraf earned the pre-fix bhagorra (fugitive), his escape highlighted the kid-glove treatment given to men in uniform — even retired ones — as opposed to civilians, particularly politicians.
The revocation of his bail also prised open a question unanswered since his return from self-exile last month: Why did he return when such a development was inevitable? He faced arrest and returned only on anticipatory bail, and a slew of cases have been filed against him since.
After a fairly smooth three weeks, things began unravelling for Pakistan’s last coup-maker this week. First, he was thrown out of the election race despite filing nominations from four constituencies; and then, the arrest order. Also, the Supreme Court has been weighing heavily on the federal government to take a position on the treason case that he is facing for subversion of the Constitution.
This was his second appearance before the Islamabad High Court. On his first appearance last week, the judge left the room just before Gen. Musharraf was to enter it, forcing the former army chief to wait in his car for over half-an-hour.
Since his biggest following is on Facebook, the first detailed official response to the bail cancellation came up on the social networking site late afternoon. In Islamabad, all that his party office-bearers had to say till then was that a bail application would be moved in the Supreme Court. The Facebook statement by the North American “point of contact” for Gen. Musharraf was much more detailed.
According to this statement, he appeared in court in a procedural matter for extension in his transitory bail and the judge took an “unprecedented” and “unwarranted decision” to reject it. “The augmented state security apparatus assigned to him in the face of specific and credible physical threats to his life by the enemies of Pakistan” escorted him home.
Referring to the decision to approach the Supreme Court, the statement said: “We expect this unwarranted judicial activism, motivated by personal vendettas…will cease and the Supreme Court… will immediately grant necessary relief…, the absence of which… can result in unnecessary tension amongst the various pillars of State and possibly destabilise the country.”
As questions were raised about the escape, his party leaders maintained that Gen. Musharraf was neither an absconder nor resisting arrest. About the haste with which he exited the court premises with his security detail keeping local policemen at bay, the chief coordinator of All Pakistan Muslim League Mohammad Amjad said: “His security needed to be ensured as lawyers from the Rawalpindi High Court Bar Association were present. They are the Supreme Court’s 111 Brigade,” he added for good measure, referring to the infantry brigade that has been involved in all military takeovers.