The dismissal of former President General Pervez Musharraf’s appeal seeking an extension in his bail in the judges’ confinement case by the Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Thursday has created a stir in political, military and legal circles. Indeed, all segments of society, supporter or opponent, official or non-official, high or low, are watching keenly to ascertain just how Pakistan will deal with the first of its former dictators ever to go on trial. Adding further spice to the case was the total inaction shown by the police in putting him under arrest that had been specifically ordered by the IHC. As he came out of the court room, he sped off to his villa in Chak Shahzad, a posh Islamabad suburb, in a bullet-proof vehicle, guarded by his personal security, with the police and rangers playing the part of silent spectators. The amazing and at the same time equally shameful reality is the utter lack of cooperation and indifference shown by the caretaker setup in Musharraf’s trial, though it is simply carrying on with the tradition set by its predecessor governments. The former military dictator faces several cases in the courts, including treason for subverting the constitution and murders of PPP Chairperson Benazir Bhutto and Baloch leader Nawab Akbar Bugti.
As of now, Musharraf's residence has been declared a sub-jail, where unlike civilian, elected leaders like Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, Benazir Bhutto or Nawaz Sharif, he will not have to suffer the rigours of a jail cell and instead live in the plush comfort of his own home till his case is decided. A complex politico-military relationship in the country is now adjusting to the reality that this is the first time that an ex-army chief is being put on trial, causing many a prospective adventurer in the ranks to tug uncomfortably at their collar. However, even with enormous public support and judicial pressure, the caretaker government still appears to be walking on eggshells when dealing with the former dictator. On the one hand, Information Minister Arif Nizami tells the media that the government will comply with the orders of the court, on the other, the orders transferring all the SHOs of the capital are withdrawn. The wholesale shift of these key police officers soon after Musharraf was able to leave the court premises without any resistance by them was being interpreted as a reaction to their failure to do their duty. Musharraf’s lawyers tried to file an appeal before the Supreme Court, but were asked to attach the full judgment of the IHC issued within hours of the interim order. Also, the full court meeting of the Supreme Court might, one is tempted to assume, have debated these quick and unexpected developments before it hears the appeal today. However, Pakistan is passing through interesting times, with one crisis over another bedeviling its scene. Even if one were to put aside the umpteen crises (crippling power cuts, near financial bankruptcy, upsurge in terrorist attacks, for instance), now, the former military ruler’s cases have added another dimension: uncertainty. The fears that the army might sharply react if the cases are taken to their logical conclusion hang in the air, but Pakistan is now irrevocably destined for a democratic transition, and on this, all institutions agree.