Pakistan's former leader facing court on treason charges | Asia Pacific

Pakistan's former leader facing court on treason charges

Pakistan's former leader facing court on treason charges

Updated 20 November 2013, 16:12 AEDT

The Pakistani Government could be heading for a conflict with its own military.

A special tribunal to try former Pakistani ruler General Pervez Musharraf for high treason has been set-up.

If found guilty, he could face the death penalty.

Presenter: Iskhandar Razak

Speaker: Farahnaz Ispahani, a Pakistani politician and Public Policy Scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Centre in the United States

ISPAHANI: This is a historic happening in Pakistan. For Pervez Musharraf,  former head of the Pakistani military, former Pakistani President coup making general to have these kinds of charges brought against him a very major and momentous political event.

RAZAK: Is a special court necessary?
ISPAHANI: Because of what has happened in the past, present government of Mr Nawaz Sharif, feels that a special court is needed. 
However, from the point of view of a political observer and analyst, many Pakistanis are a little disturbed at this, even those of us who have been democrats and who have suffered under exile and other issues under General Musharraf and other military dictators feel that it's very important for Pakistan, that this case against General Musharraf, in this case justice should be done and justice must be seen to be done. It is essential that this not be seen as a revenge case using legal tactics.
RAZAK: How likely though is that from happening, how likely will justice be done and be done fair and transparently? In the past, the Pakistani military has tended to look after their own and protect their own no matter who they are. Is that likely to become a problem again?
ISPAHANI: As I said, this is indeed a groundbreaking occurrence, but is also potentially volatile and there's some concern that this may led to a confrontation between the civilian government and the Pakistan military, which Pakistan at this point, fighting terrorism, fighting the targeted killings of its minorities, fighting suicide bombings with the United States and the NATO forces leaving Afghanistan soon in 2014. Pakistan and Pakistani citizens and civilians are very, very nervous about any new confrontation at this point.
RAZAK: You raise an interesting point. Is it perhaps then too much to bite off right now. Perhaps is it best to leave this case sitting by for another year or so while Pakistan focuses on other more pressing issues or is this highly pressing and needs to be done straight away?
ISPAHANI: Well, it's interesting. Since Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has come in, they had, this government had stated that their number one priority was fixing the economy and for fixing an economy, you need stability. And the other thing that they talked about was talking to the Taliban and dealing with the issue of terrorism within Pakistan and in the FATA areas of Pakistan, and Afghanistan, obviously.
Now, bringing something up as explosive as this, it may perhaps not be the best possible time.
However, on the otherside, as a democrat and someone who has seen what military and military rule can do and what they have done to create the mindset of hatred by militarising these Islamist groups in Pakistan. We're still living with those consequences everyday. I do feel this may perhaps not be the best time.
RAZAK: You mentioned already that Pakistanis in Pakistan that you've spoken to feel nervous about this situation. Is that the only feeling that exists in the political climate at the moment regarding this? Is it primarily nervousness or is there perhaps hope that this could lead to...?
ISPAHANI: Look, there is, I mean absolutely. I mean I have to say that the one thing that all Pakistanis agreed with was for the last government finishing its tenure, the last government which was the first democratically-elected government in Pakistan's history since the hanging of Mr Zulfikar Ali Bhutto to complete its term. We had free and fair elections by and large and we have a new democratic set up. So yes, on that hand, it is very important, it is a signal that democracy has come and all political parties want democracy to stay.
It is not that I feel what General Musharraf did was not wrong. The abeyance of the Constitution is a treasonist matter. But the feeling of analysts perhaps is that with everything else that people are dealing with at this point, especially the man and woman and child on the street is the timing perfect?. Now that only history can tell us.


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