A special court’s order awarding death sentence to the former Pakistani president Parvez Musharraf in a high treason case exposes fissures among various wings of what has now become a failed State. The ruling implies that the traditional equation among the executive, military and the judiciary is changing in a country where the military has dominated almost all aspects of political life since its birth. Much to the chagrin of the Rawalpindi bosses, the judiciary is now increasingly asserting its independence. A strong reaction from the Army to the court’s verdict reflects the growing tension between a well-entrenched military establishment, which tried every trick in its bag to stymie the investigation, and the judiciary. The Prime Minister Imran Khan is widely seen to be close to the military and his victory in the last elections was also attributed to the support from the military. His government is so furious over the verdict that it is seeking removal of the judge who pronounced death punishment. The case is bound to have far-reaching ramifications as Pakistan’s different power centres seek to assert themselves. The verdict is largely seen as a strong message to the military generals that they can no longer interfere in politics, grab power or influence electoral outcomes. The judiciary has had a better track record than the executive in the way it resisted military’s dominance in Pakistani politics. The case relates to Musharraf’s decision to impose emergency and suspend the constitution in 2007. He left Pakistan for Dubai three years ago for medical treatment after his name was removed from the Exit Control List on the orders of the Supreme Court. A few months later, the special court declared him a “proclaimed offender” and ordered confiscation of his properties.
Eventually, even if the Supreme Court upholds the death sentence, the civilian President has the powers to pardon Musharraf, a likely scenario given the fact that the Imran Khan government cannot afford to antagonise the military. As the architect of Kargil misadventure, Musharraf remains an unreliable customer for India. The balance of power within Pakistan, particularly the military’s dominance and its vested interests, had prevented normalising of relations with India. In order to perpetuate the military dominance in the country, the Kashmir dispute has been kept alive and New Delhi has been portrayed as a constant threat. Whenever a civilian government attempted to take steps for better relations with India, a military-inspired terrorist strike on Indian soil had derailed the peace process. The Mumbai terror attack in 2008 and the Kargil conflict in 1999 illustrate this diabolic design. As a result, all the attempts at restoring peace between the two neighbours have always meant taking one step forward and several steps back.