Best legal defense is still the brass on one’s shoulders, not the truth on one’s side

Gen Musharraf on a planeThree years ago, Anti-Terrorism Court formally charged Gen Musharraf with murder, criminal conspiracy for murder and facilitation for murder for the assassination of Benazir Bhutto. One year later, the ex-dictator listened as another judge read out a new set of charges including high treason for subverting the Constitution when he illegally seized power in 2007. Today, he sits smiling as he sips his favourite Scotch whiskey in Dubai. His dreams of returning to power were dashed by reality, but neither did his nightmare of facing justice come to pass. Instead, Gen Musharraf joins a long history of military dictators who ran way rather than facing justice. Pakistan’s Gen Musharraf name will be included in history books next to Chile’s Gen Pinochet and Uganda’s Gen Idi Amin.

The meaning of this is so clear that it is hardly worth even noting. Dawn has called it, ‘Musharraf’s latest coup‘, and says ‘Increasingly, it appears that the prime minister has accepted the de facto normalisation of military control’. Once again we are reminded that justice in this country is arbitrary, and the best legal defense is still the brass on one’s shoulders, not the truth on one’s side.

However, Gen Musharraf’s retreat is a stark reminder that it is not only mercy that is reserved for the military elite. The excuse given for letting go a suspect charged with murder and treason is that he requires medical treatment. By allowing this, the Court has officially admitted that we are a country soon to have world’s third-largest nuclear arsenal, but we can’t even provide proper medical care for our citizens. If Gen Musharraf, who somehow became a billionaire, can not get proper medical treatment in this country, what is the hope of the common man who does not have the connections or the billions to spend?

Gen Musharraf may have run away from Pakistan, but the rest of us are here to stay. This episode feels familiar because it is, but we can let it drag us down into cynicism or we can take it as a wake up call to take our country back from the powers that are holding it back.

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