History in making
The former four-star General of Pakistan is the first ever to be serves a death sentence by the state on account of proven offence. A special court in Pakistan sentenced former President Pervez Musharraf to death in a treason case was filed by the Nawaz Sharif government in 2013. Sharif government filed case of treason against Musharraf for suspending constitution in 2007. It was a previous Sharif government which Musharraf had upstaged to acquire power in 1999. Musharraf was the third military commander to take the reigns of Pakistan when he dismissed the democratically elected Nawaz Sharif government in 1999 and the second to cause suspension of the nation's constitution. And now in a first, he has been convicted for treason and awarded death penalty by a special court in Islamabad. Musharraf had suspended constitution in 2007 and imposed extra-constitutional emergency. This was a time when the top judges of the Supreme Court of Pakistan were imprisoned and over hundred judges were sacked. In these dark times, voice of democratic lay muted. Also the one with prime role and responsibility in the Kargil war against India, Musharraf remained at the helm of affairs in Pakistan till 2008, before he resigned in fear of impeachment backed by the Pakistan People's Party government and fled the state. It was in 2013 when the tabels turned against Musharraf with Nawaz Sharif of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) returning to power after 14 years. That year, Musharraf had emerged from his self-exile to participate in the general election but stood disqualified by the judiciary. Subsequenly, the Nawaz Sharif government filed a case of treason against Musharraf which case reached its logical conclusion in a special court on Tuesday finding him guilty in the crime that is punishable with death. What is indeed an ironical instance of role reversal in a duel between Pervez Musharraf and Nawaz Sharif for supremacy in Pakistan, in 1999, when Pervez Musharraf had ousted Nawaz Sharif, he had the dismissed prime minister stand trial on many accounts including treason, arguing that Nawaz Sharif had tried to delay landing of Pervez Musharraf's plane on his return from Colombo on the day of the 1999 military coup. Eventually Nawaz Sharif reached an agreement with Pervez Musharraf and the trial for treason was to be dropped and Sharif family was to go in to exile in Saudi Arabia. In the Nawaz Sharif government of 2013, as expected, Musharraf stood the trial for treason which took off but lost steam after Pervez Musharraf fled once again to Dubai in 2016 after the Nawaz Sharif government removed his name from the no-fly list. The treason case came to highlight all over again in October this year when the Imran Khan government which made an entry in 2018, sacked the entire legal team employed by the Nawaz Sharif government. Despite the fact that the Imran Khan government tried to delay the verdict in the case, it could not withhold for more than a month. Consequently, the death sentence to Pervez Musharraf was but awarded in absentia as he has not returned to Pakistan since 2016. Currently, he is in Dubai where he is under treatment for a rare health condition called Amyloidosis. Upon further analysis, it is unlikely that Pervez Musharraf would be extradited to Pakistan for execution of the death sentence given his connections in the Emirates. An interesting point of coincidence is that when Nawaz Sharif was sentenced to a 10-year jail term in a corruption case in 2017 and was forced to quit, he, too, has been in exile in London receiving medical treatment for ailments including an immune system disorder that keeps his blood platelet levels very low. A vindicated Nawaz Sharif may have had the last laugh in this power struggle of two decades, but considering matters at large in Pakistan, the judiciary, in this verdict against Musharraf has also paved the way for an occasion to redefine civil-military relations in the state. The historicity of the fact is that this is the first time in Pakistan's history of seven decades that a military chief has been found guilty of treason and awarded the death sentence, taking critical attention to the complex institutional power dynamics in which the military has exercised a tight upper hand. The Pakistan judiciary's stand is also one in the face of the interest of the establishment.