Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif should be lauded for letting go of his personal animosity toward Pervez Musharraf.
Pervez Musharraf, former president and Army chief, left Karachi for Dubai in the early hours of Friday. Stuck between Islamabad (where he faced attempts on his life from jihadists) and Karachi since March 2013, the federal government finally permitted Musharraf to fly out for medical treatment following an order on Wednesday from the Supreme Court.
There was always plenty of score settling apparent in the decision to immiserate Musharraf in legal cases. Leading the charge against him were the-then chief justice, Iftikhar Chaudhry, and the current prime minister—both of whom Musharraf had ousted from office.
After the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) came to power, it decided to try Musharraf for treason—a charge punishable by death—for imposition not of the Oct. 12, 1999, coup that was subsequently validated by the Supreme Court (with Chaudhry among the assenting justices) and Parliament, but for the short-lived state of emergency enacted on Nov. 3, 2007.
The morally blurred “treason” trial led to divisions between the Army and the government and divisions within the government. Musharraf made several appearances in several courts for the several cases against him. These cases included the raid on Lal Masjid, the killing of the un-statesman Baloch politician Nawab Akbar Bugti, and the assassination of Benazir Bhutto. Lal Masjid has “forgiven” Musharraf and the court has exonerated Musharraf in the Bugti matter.
Bhutto’s Pakistan Peoples Party, which sent off Musharraf after he resigned his presidency in 2008 with a regal guard of honor ceremony, wanted Musharraf punished too. But Musharraf’s successor as Army chief, Gen. Ashfaq Kayani, would not let Musharraf’s successor as president, Asif Ali Zardari, have his way. Zardari, threatened with his own treason trial over Memogate, could hardly afford to offend Kayani, who hated anyone daring to try his erstwhile boss. The PPP, with its ever-waning fortunes, has vowed to launch “nationwide protests” against the government’s decision to let Musharraf leave Pakistan. This is a hollow Twitter threat.
The people egging on Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif—who says he’s moved past his own personal anger—to hang Musharraf are a whole contradictory caboodle: the state-spawned jihadists and their interfacing state agents who hated Musharraf for giving up on the Taliban and joining the Americans after 9/11, and “democrats” who hate the furtive military elite for keeping the state in their strategic fetters.
It was the raid (which Bhutto vocally supported) of the Al Qaeda-linked Lal Masjid in 2007 that ultimately toppled Musharraf and shook to its core Pakistan’s resolve against terrorism. Musharraf had offended everyone in the jihad underworld that the state had created, and the “democrats” could do nothing when Musharraf’s successor, Kayani, rolled back his “enlightened” worldview and started favoring the Taliban again. The decision of the Sharif government to let go is brave because it is devoid of personal animus and wise because it deprives the out-of-favor-again jihadists of a trophy to mount on their wall.