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Gen. Musharraf’s Conviction: The ‘Family’ Strikes Back – OpEd

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While reacting to the death sentence awarded by a special court to former Pakistan army chief Gen Pervez Musharraf, Director General (DG) Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor spoke of the army being a “family” and there’s nothing wrong is saying so as he most certainly wasn’t referring to what this word in implies in American-Italian mafia parlance.

But, his menacing statement that, “We know how to defend the country and also know very well how to defend the respect and dignity of the (army) institution” does sound like a dialogue picked up from ‘mob’ themed Hollywood movie, especially when it’s sugar-coated with a principled caveat-“but for us, the country comes first and the institution second”!

Whereas it may be inappropriate to comment on the quantum of sentence awarded to Gen Musharraf by the special court, but its directions that if found dead his corpse should be dragged to D-Chowk and strung up for three days is something that even those with the most depraved mindset would find thoroughly revolting.

But notwithstanding this grotesque inclusion in the court verdict, for the Pakistan army to respond by flexing its muscles in the form of an indiscreet warning that it knows very well how to defend its respect and dignity too is in a very poor taste. Everyone knows that the army in Pakistan traditionally enjoys extra-constitutional powers not only over the executive but also autonomous institutions of the state and that’s why for it to get ‘personal’ with the judiciary is regrettable.

In this press briefing, the otherwise very media-interaction savvy DGISPR took no questions. Besides being a clear sign of the army’s reluctance to exchange views with scribes, this also reflects the imperious attitude that those in uniform have towards the fourth estate.

Many experts feel that this was an opportune occasion in which Maj Gen Ghafoor could have used posers by the media to convey much of what he otherwise had to say, because his one-sided presentation didn’t have the required impact. For example, what sense does one make out of his remark that “We are today facing a hybrid war; we are fully aware of this changing nature and character of war; we also understand the enemy, its facilitators, supervisors and their possible designs”?

But there may be a reason that forced Maj Gen Ghafoor to follow the ‘one-way dialogue’ format. Could that be the apprehension hounding Rawalpindi of a possible question on why did the army facilitate the removal of Gen Musharraf’s name from the ‘Exit Control List’ (as he himself has admitted) that allowed him to leave the country and facilitated his absence throughout the trial.

This query would certainly have come since one of the serious flaws in Gen Musharraf’s trial proceeding that DGISPR pointed out was “denial of (Gen Musharraf’s) fundamental right of self-defence.”

Furthermore, Maj Gen Ghafoor’s assertion that “Armed Forces of Pakistan expect that justice will be dispensed in line with Constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan” smacks of the same arrogance that was evident in DGISPR’s curt tweet in 2017, after the Prime Minister Office (PMO) announced that the then Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had approved the inquiry committee report on what came to be known as the ‘Dawn leaks’ case.

Readers would recollect that with utter disregard to norms of civility commonly associated with the armed forces worldwide, Rawalpindi used a comparatively low-ranking officer to humiliate the PM by tweeting “Notification on Dawn Leak is incomplete and not in line with recommendations by the Inquiry Board. Notification is rejected”!

A seemingly unconnected but very relevant issue that’s escaped notice of the media is the DGISPR’s proclamation that “We have demonstrated it (defence of the national security) practically in the past 20 years (and) achieved what no other country or army in the world could achieve.

If what Maj Gen Ghafoor is saying is true, then does one take it that Pakistan army is admitting that it really wasn’t performing its constitutional responsibility effectively prior to this? Or could it be that the 20-year slot has been intentionally incorporated for ensuring ‘technical correctness’ so that it excludes Gen Musharraf’s 1999 Kargil misadventure in which Pakistan was internationally humiliated and its army lost hundreds of its men without even making a single inch of territorial gain!

Talking of Kargil, an interesting thought comes to mind — wouldn’t the loss of national prestige and such humungous cost in human lives have also caused a “lot of pain and anguish by rank and file of Pakistan Armed Forces,” of as much, if not a much higher magnitude than news of Gen Musharraf’s conviction!

So, is it that ‘Karma” is finally getting back at Gen Musharraf after all these years?

Tailpiece: Musharraf lovers needn’t worry or lose sleep on account of his conviction being upheld because in the end, the “family” (that the Pakistan army is), will definitely make an ‘offer’ that the judiciary can’t refuse!

Nilesh Kunwar

Nilesh Kunwar

Nilesh Kunwar is a retired Indian Army Officer who has served in Jammu & Kashmir, Assam, Nagaland and Manipur. He is a ‘Kashmir-Watcher,’ and now after retirement is pursuing his favorite hobby of writing for newspapers, journals and think tanks.

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