The escape

Daily: The Nation
Date: 21.03.16

A medical certificate can preclude the enforcement of Article 6 of the Constitution of
Pakistan. This has been proved in the case of General (retired) Pervaiz Musharraf who was
booked and charged with high treason (i.e. indictment) by a special court (in March 2014)
for abrogating the Constitution of Pakistan on November 3, 2007.

No one knew the potency of the medical certificate presented by Musharraf to defeat the
clutches of the law against high treason. Musharraf’s team had to make him only verbalise
certain complaints, called symptoms, and that was it. The certificate was obtained. On the
media, the clips showing Musharraf wearing a hospital gown and oxygen mask were just to
air the impression of Musharraf’s supposed ailment. Anyone who is disinclined to be
befooled knows that oxygen mask has nothing to do with any type of backache, the main
reason for constructing the medical certificate. Moreover, a hospital gown is worn by those
undergoing surgery and not a medical check-up. The media was not present in the hospital
to give coverage to Musharraf’s illness. Instead, the clips were issued to the media to show
Musharraf was ill. The neurological disease reportedly affecting Musharraf’s spinal cord has
not yet been given the name.

As apparent, with the help of doctors, a case was engineered to connect Musharraf’s
narrated symptoms with the treatment on a machine or with the help of technology not
available in Pakistan. The government was so complaisant that it did not bother to
challenge the certificate or call for a second opinion through a medical board. The fear was
that the disease would be discussed in the media and the whole idea of escape would fail.
Nevertheless, if Senator Raza Rabbani of the PPP had known the might of a medical
certificate used in saving an indicted constitutional violator, he would have proposed the
inclusion of the word doctors specifically as collaborators in Article 6 through the 18th
Amendment.

Musharraf’s escape route from the application of Article 6 was not constructed through
contesting the case in the courts but through getting the removal of his name from the exit
control list to flee the country. The implied message is that Musharraf believed that, in case
of contesting the case and defending the allegation of high treason, by being physically
present around, the more chances were of losing the case and ending up in the jail. In this
way, whereas the government allowed to get the supremacy of the constitution defeated,
the escape of Musharraf is also instructive of his own defeat. Musharraf preferred to
chicken out of the situation. Hence, both the government and Musharraf have entered the
lose-lose or no-win situation.

Musharraf has not left the country to return- this is true. In March 2013, Musharraf arrived
in the country (from London after ending the self-imposed exile) under the illusion that he
was needed in the country by millions of his Facebook supporters. The supporter trap
which, was placed actually to astound his detractors (when Musharraf was abroad),
entrapped Musharraf himself. In Pakistan, instead of stirring the masses to pave the way for
his entering the corridors of power (through general elections in May 2013), Musharraf’s
“save Pakistan” chant made him end up in pretending to be a cardiac patient by getting
admitted to the Armed Institute of Cardiology, Rawalpindi, in January 2014. To date, it is not
known who (in millions) duped Musharraf on his social media page into pronouncing his
inevitability for the country; however, it is known that Musharraf’s stay in Pakistan remained
punctuated with the episodes of hiding in one hospital or another, under one ruse or
another. Musharraf remained at the mercy of lawyers and doctors to save his skin. From
2013 to 2016, Musharraf must have got the whiff of the idea that there was a gigantic
difference between rising to the corridors of power through the army ranks and through the
public ranks.

By letting Musharraf leave the country and consequently avoid physical presence before
the courts will weaken democracy. One example to understand the feeble resolve of the
present government in preserving the sanctity of the Constitution against abrogation was
the dharna (sit-in) staged by the Pakistan Awami Tehrik and the Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf in
2014. It was the Peshawar school massacre that precipitated ending the sit-in. Sheikh
Rasheed of Awami Muslim League exploited the street power of both the parties to benefit
his former boss, Musharraf. In this departure of Musharraf, the winner is actually Rasheed
who proved his expertise to maneuver a situation to obtain desirable results. Nevertheless,
in the struggle to weaken the sitting government, the intelligence agencies of the country
also got derided publicly and the ISPR failed to put a reasonable defence.

The Musharraf case has so far proved that the military can topple a sitting government but
it cannot do away with Article 6 of the Constitution. Secondly, the route to escape the wrath
of Article 6 passes through hospitals and medical certificates and not through the might of
the institution of the army. Thirdly, one truck full of soldiers may be enough to overtake the
parliament but the survival abode of the military commander cannot be Pakistan. Fourthly,
on the itinerary of democracy, Pakistan has moved far ahead of the stage Pakistan was in
the 1980s. The highest rank of the army could not protect the holder of the rank from
doffing his uniform, resigning from the position of the president (to escape impeachment)
and ensuring honourable survival within the country.

The Musharraf of October 1999 (in the plane-hijacking drama) struggled for his arrival back
in Pakistan: the Musharraf of March 2016 (in the disease-treatment drama) struggled for
his departure from Pakistan. Indeed, Pakistan is an interesting country to study. On a
lighter note, the future military dictators should forge friendly ties with civilian doctors before
another constitutional amendment closes this escape route too.

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