Compared with the announcement in June in which the Pakistani prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, declared his government’s intention to press charges against Pervez Musharraf for treason, Tuesday’s court indictment against the former military ruler for murder in connection with the assassination of Benazir Bhutto is a sideshow. Few analysts believe there is hard evidence linking Musharraf to Bhutto’s murder. The treason charges, if they materialize, are a different matter, as the legal case that he subverted the constitution when he imposed emergency rule in late 2007 is relatively easy to make.
Musharraf already faces charges in four cases related to his rule. One way or another, it amounts to the same thing: putting a once untouchable general on trial. Pakistan’s powerful military did not support his return from exile in London. …
More importantly, the army, too, is about to have a new leader. In his forthcoming book, Getting Away With Murder, the man who led the UN investigation in Bhutto’s assassination, Heraldo Muñoz, describes the outgoing army chief, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, as a professional soldier of independent mind. Muñoz said that the general expressed doubts to him about the claim by his former boss Musharraf that Bhutto had been assassinated by the Pakistani Taliban. He also spoke fondly of Bhutto, saying she had grown as a politician. All this further muddies the waters about who was really behind her assassination.
Musharraf was ill-advised to return to Pakistan, where his political support has evaporated and where he spends his time under house arrest. Even with a new army chief and chief justice, Sharif will have to balance the demand to seek justice for emergency rule, with the needs of a military that remains the most powerful institution in the land. A presidential pardon for Musharraf, if convicted, could be one way out. Establishing the rule of law is going to take somewhat longer.
The Guardian, London