The decision that has no precedence in the country’s judicial history which came at the end of a tense five-hour deliberation by Supreme Court of Pakistan yesterday, was a symbolic victory for Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, who was reinstated as Chief Justice last March after two year long vital protest movement by the Lawyers.
Supreme Court ruled that former President Pervez Musharraf trampled the constitution when he imposed emergency rule two years ago and all actions taken by him then were illegal but refrained from passing any order against him. This could open the door to treason charges against Mr. Musharraf, though many analysts view that outcome as unlikely. The guardian repoted it as
“Pervez Musharraf faces an extended exile, possibly in Britain, following the ruling that has paved the way for a possible treason prosecution”.
(The text of Supreme Court’s Judgment can be found here. )
Once the most powerful man in Pakistan and a valued ally of the United States, Musharraf’s popularity nosedived after he tried to dismiss Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry in early 2007, sparking a crisis that led to his downfall. Neither Musharraf, who seized power in a 1999 coup, nor did his lawyers attend the court hearing. The retired general left Pakistan for Britain two months ago, reportedly at the urging of the army chief, General Ashfaq Kayani, who wanted to remove all political distractions as the army fought the Taliban along the Afghan border. Musharraf has given media interviews every now and then and reportedly bought an expensive apartment in London, the funding of which has been the subject of much speculation in Pakistan.
Lawyers clapped and shouted “Long live the chief justice” and “Hang Musharraf” after CJ read the judgment. Aitzaz Ahsan, leader of the lawyers’ movement that helped oust Musharraf, said “the ruling would lock the door to future adventurism“.
Analyst Cyril Almeida said a treason trial was more a political matter than a legal one.
“My gut feeling is that Musharraf isn’t a guy to live in exile permanently. He will return at some point but right now the political heat is too much. His presence in the country is seen as being too destabilizing.”
The verdict though being praised and rightly so but the ramification of the historic ruling were unclear, exposing the complicated legal tangle that clouds Pakistan’s constitution following decades of alternating military and democratic rule.