The hottest and media-favorite topic in Pakistan these days is prosecution of former president Pervez Musharraf announced by the government to escape from charges of mis-governance on the eve of Ashura on last Friday in which score of people lost their lives in sectarian clashes. Nearly every channel, in its prime time talk shows, discusses to exert pressure on Pakistani government to prosecute Musharraf for his act of sacking judiciary in November, 2007 which the judiciary itself declared as an act of “high treason”. The charge carries death penalty or life imprisonment. The government is now feeling relaxed because its ill-timed move has yielded the desired results. It has provided the much needed distraction from Pakistan’s major issues like security, sectarian violence, sky-rocketing prices and failing economy, which the government has miserably failed to address.
The government, in its infinite wisdom, has decided not to open the case of real treason, sacking the elected government in October, 1999 because that carried many risks. Major risk is exposure of the role of political leadership of 1999, which is in power again these days, to trigger the coup. Another risk is that the judiciary which validated the coup and the parliament which indemnified it through a constitutional judgment would always be found involved in aiding and abetting that coup as accomplices. Aiding and abetting a coup also carries the same punishment.
If that case was opened, it could embarrass many including the top judge who has recently been spearheading a campaign against Musharraf. The case now being pursued is interesting from many angles. The victim, top judiciary, declared Musharraf as guilty and asked the government prosecute him as a lone perpetrator of sacking the judges. When a top court declares someone as guilty, then there is no prosecution and no court or investigation agency can dare to accept a valid defense. Then, a special court to be constituted by the government under the law was constituted by the chief justice himself packing it with judges of his choice who, it is alleged, are known cronies of you-know-who and Musharraf-haters.
The most interesting role is being played by Pakistan’s electronic media which owes its independence, not to any any democratic government but to a military ruler, Pervez Musharraf. Every evening, there is a mock court in the studios and the presiding judges, the anchorperson, invites guests and moderates discussion in such a way which culminates in proving Musharraf guilt. The media-savvy top judge, who is known for taking clues from media headlines for his sou motto actions, must be feeling happy and the fact that these programs are interference in the judicial process and amount to influencing the prosecution which is a contempt of court under article 204 of the Constitution, goes totally unnoticed by the top court.