Achakzai’s “Amnesty” For Musharraf

achkzai111Speaking at the National Assembly’s session on June 5, Pashtunkhawa Milli Awami Party (Pk.M.A.P) chairman Mahmooad Khan Achakzai suggested that Article 6 petition against General Musharraf for violating Pakistan’s Constitution should be dropped. He insisted that General Musharraf did not act alone but had several people in his team who backed him in his extra-constitutional actions. If others cannot be punished, he remarked, then it was meaningless to punish only one person.

Mr. Achakzai’s argument is not convincing nor should it lead to a safe passage to the former military dictator. Here is why:

General Musharraf ousted an elected government in a military coup in October 1999. He was the head of the Pakistani Army and everyone within the army was officially required, even if unwilling, to abide by the instructions of their commander. The General immediately accumulated so much power that he brought the judiciary and the parliament under his complete control. He ruled the Pakistan as an autocrat. While it is important to punish everyone else who collaborated in staging a coup, the first move to achieve that goal is to bring General Musharraf to justice. Mr. Achakzai should have instead said, if General Musharraf cannot be brought to justice then charges and labels against everyone else (particularly those in the Pakistan Muslim League (P.M.L-Quaid-e-Azam) should be dropped. Who is opposed to bringing ‘others’ to book? Apparently, no one. The people want to know the motivations behind General Musharraf’s actions and whose who supported him.

For Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif dealing with General Musharraf is a significant challenge.  He has to walk on a very  fine line to avoid personal revenge against a man who ousted his government but, at the same time, he should also ensure an end to a culture of immunity granted to military dictators over many years for violating the country’s constitution.

A part of General Musharraf’s crimes pertains to his policies in Balochistan. We have always argued that only blaming him for Nawab Bugti’s killing amounts to neglecting the larger picture of human rights violations he ordered in the province. Everyone who suffered in Balochistan during General Musharraf’s time deserves justice. It makes sense why Mr. Achakzai is willing to so generously forgive Mr. Musharraf because the latter did not carry out any operations in Balochistan’s Pashtun areas. General Musharraf’s war was specifically against the Baloch people. Hence, Mr. Achakzai’s views may represent his personal opinion or the policy of his party but they clearly do not reflect the wishes of the Baloch people.

It is ironic that in 2007 speech on the floor of the same National Assembly, Mr. Achakzai passionately spoke against those who violated the constitution and now his views have undergone a radical change. During General Musharraf’s dictatorial regime, Mr. Achakzai was a key anti-Musharraf leader in Pakistan’s Oppressed Nations Movement (P.O.N.M.) and the Alliance for the Restoration of Democracy (A.R.D.). The case against General Musharraf is not personal but it is professional and he, just like any other citizen, should face trial for all charges pending against him in various courts.

We believe General Musharraf deserves a fair and honorable trial. The courts enjoy the highest level of public trust ever and are widely perceived to be fiercely free. If charges against General Musharraf are not proven, the courts will hopefully acquit him. While putting the former dictator on trial, the slightest possibility of revenge from the government and the judiciary should be eliminated but absolute immunity should not be an option. This will not set a good precedence for the future. Such generous amnesty emboldens future coup-makers.

Published in The Baloch Hal on June 7, 2013

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