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Army in dock: Pak amazed at verdict

world Updated: Oct 22, 2012 02:14 IST
Imtiaz Ahmad
Imtiaz Ahmad
Hindustan Times
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It's not every day that the courts in Pakistan hold army officers guilty of treason in Pakistan. In fact, so disdainful were army generals of the Supreme Court that one former chief in the 90's refused to attend proceedings when summoned in a case.

"Generals can't appear before civilians," he is reported to have said. That's why the verdict by the Pakistan Supreme Court last week in which two army generals and one president were held guilty of rigging the 1990 elections comes a landmark decision.

Gen Mirza Aslam Beg, then army chief, and Lt Gen Asad Durrani, then head of ISI, alongwith then president Ghulam Ishaq Khan were found guilty of rigging the 1990 elections.

In what is known as the Asghar Khan case, the court also ruled that not only should the army not interfere in politics but those politicians who received money at the behest of the trio that rigged the elections should now return the public money.

The army high command has played along. It issued a statement lauding the decision and insisting that it does not interfere in politics.

The question is whether the government will follow up on its threat to try the two retired generals for treason.

"If it goes ahead with this it will be the trial of the century," says legal expert Iqbal Haider.

"Many knights need to follow Gen Durrani's dark road," Zahid Ebrahim, another expert said.

The verdict has vindicated Benazir Bhutto against whose party the elections were rigged.

It has also proven the existance of a civil-military bureaucratic bloc, commonly referred in Pakistan as the establishment, which has undermined democracy time and again.

In all this, there is great confusion on how to move forward. Leader of the PML-Q, Pervez Elahi, says that a commission should be set up so that other wrongs are exposed.

The other worry is that whether despite this judgment there will be more military interventions in Pakistan.

There is more to the judgment that can be seen.

The verdict focuses on Ghulam Ishaq Khan's constitutional violations. However, warn experts, the principles enunciated by the SC may have someone else in mind.

It has to do with the president of Pakistan and this in the long run may mean a drawing of the noose around the neck on President Zardari.