Bringing Musharraf to Justice


In a fiercely independent judgement, the Balochistan High Court (BHC) has ordered the federal government to seek the extradition of former military chief and the president, General (R) Pervez Musharraf, in the murder case of ex-governor and chief minister Nawab Mohammad Akbar Bugti. Coming from an assertive and relatively independent judiciary, the decision has also been officially welcomed by the government of Balcohistan and the federal government in Islamabad.

The government in Quetta had been arduously striving to ascertain the facts related to the killing of the elderly Baloch leader in a military operation sanctioned by Musharraf in 2006. Bugti’s killing dramatically changed the dynamics of the Baloch nationalist movement  in Balochistan and significantly alienated the province from the federation. As a result, demands for provincial autonomy and control over resources transformed into a clear and loud quest for independence and secession.

The Chief Justice of Balochistan High Court, Mr. Justice Faiz Essa, truly deserves admiration for sticking to the principles of justice and independence of judiciary. This is, however, not the end of the whole process. Here is what still needs to be done.

First, the federal and the provincial governments should make a formal request to the Interpol to extradite Musharraf either from the United States or United Kingdom, as he keeps traveling between both the countries. There is always a formal and legal procedure of following such cases. The people of Balochistan must not be fooled merely with the judgement of the high court without further legal action. Now, Chief Minister Raisani and his cabinet should waste no time in pressing the federal government to contact the Interpol to bring Musharraf back to Pakistan.

Second, like every citizen of the land, Musharraf should be offered a free and independent trial. The case against him should have no political motivations and biases. As a former president of the country, Musharraf should fully respect and abide by the law of the country. By refusing to appear before the courts, he does not set an impressive precedence in front of his own political followers. Although Musharraf is a man who violated the country’s constitution and destroyed state institutions during his dictatorial stint, we sincerely hope he does realize that the judgement against him has not been passed by his political opponents but by a lawful, judicial state institution. Therefore, he should make democracy and his fledgling political party proud by appearing before the courts to face whatever charges are leveled against him. Forming a political party does not necessarily lead to democratic attitude. It takes courage and sacrifices to be a genuine democratic leader.

Third, it is bizarre how the Bugit family and the Balochistan government are consistently seeking justice only for Nawab Bugti. It is true that Bugti’s was the most high profile murder in Balochistan but the issue does not begin or end with the Bugti family. Many other families and individuals have enormously suffered because of the policies initiated by Musharraf. In fact, the charge sheet against Musharraf would look too weak if he is only implicated in the murder case of Nawab Bugti. Justice must not be selectively applied in Balochistan. Everyone who has suffered because of the conflict should be provided justice.

Regardless of its legitimacy and popularity, the Balochistan government has a responsibility to represent the people of the province. Thus, it should broaden the charge-sheet against Musharraf by also mentioning the phenomenon of enforced disappearance approved and exercised by the Musharraf regime.  Hundreds of disappeared Balcohs have been killed and thousands are still missing. The practice enforced disappearances is simply against the Constitution of Pakistan which grants every citizen the right to defend himself in a court . The Constitution also says every citizen is innocent until proven guilty. There is no constitutional approval of extrajudicial killings which were widespread during the Musharraf junta.

Fourth, the champions of democracy in the West, particularly the United States, should show respect for the judiciary in Pakistan and stop patronizing Musharraf. The friends of democracy and supremacy of law were totally appalled when two leading American think-tanks based in Washington DC, Woodrow Wilson for International Scholars and Carnegie Endowment for International Peace hosted Musharraf in recent times.  Inviting a former dictator who is wanted in his native country by the courts in murder charges amounts to disrespecting the Pakistani judicial system. Public speeches of an alleged criminal at think-tanks named after world’s iconic supporters of democracy and human rights clearly raise questions to these prestigious organizations’ commitment to the very idea of democracy and justice.

At this point, think-tanks in the United States, the federal and provincial governments in Balochistan and the judiciary should pave the way for an unprecedented yet absolutely free and independent trial of a former military dictator in Pakistan. This is not an ordinary case but one which can determine the future of democracy and justice in Pakistan for the coming generations. (Courtesy: The Baloch Hal)

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