Speculations are rife in Pakistan that former president General Pervez Musharraf may be flown out of the country on health grounds soon. The speculation comes on the heels of Thursday’s developments when the former COAS was admitted to a military hospital in Rawalpindi on health grounds.
At the time, the former president was on his way to attend a special court in Islamabad where he is being tried for treason. The arrival of the Saudi foreign minister in the coming week and behind the scenes discussions between defence minister Khwaja Asif and prime minister Nawaz Sharif have led the media to speculate that Musharraf may be on his way out of the country.
Though the government has denied that there was any link between Saudi minister’s visit and Musharraf’s trial, a report in daily The News suggested that the arrival of the Saudi minister was to facilitate a deal between Musharraf and the present government.
In the past, the Saudis brokered a deal in 2002 when Musharraf was president under which Nawaz Sharif was flown out of the country after being sentenced to death in a hijacking case.
"Now its time to reverse the roles," commented Ansar Abbasi, a writer for the paper.
Meanwhile, a petition was filed in a court to prevent Musharraf from going abroad for medical treatment.
Petitioner Haroon Rasheed requested the Islamabad High Court to instruct the interior ministry to ensure that the best medical facilities were made available to Musharraf and he should not be allowed to go abroad, Dawn online reported citing a spokesperson of the Lal Masjid Shuhada Foundation PPP chairperson Bilawal Bhutto called Musharraf a coward and questioned whether Musharraf was really unwell.
Bhutto recalled the cases mounted against his father, former president Asif Zardari and how he faced all of these cases in the time when Musharraf was president.
Musharraf’s exit, however, may not be as smooth as some suggest. For one, the only authority which can permit him to leave given that he is on the country’s Exit Control List, is the Supreme Court. At the same time it is the Supreme Court that has allowed setting up of the special court which is hearing the case against the former president.
Analysts say that Supreme Court judges may prove a stumbling block. But there are others who say that things may be settled soon.
"In the past too we have seen complicated situations bu these have been managed," said Shaikh Rasheed, who once served as Musharraf’s information minister. Rasheed predicts that Musharraf will leave soon and the current delay has to do with the deals that are being finalized between the army and the Sharif government through defence minister Khwaja Asif.
"While prime minister Sharif is upset with the military on different fronts including the killing of hundreds of civilians last month in the tribal areas, it may not want to go head on with the new army chief on Musharraf," said one analyst.