Islamabad/New Delhi, Dec 18 (IANS) Chief Justice Asif Saeed Khosa’s own professional legacy and the old rivalry between judiciary and army in Pakistan may have been the reasons for the unexpected death sentence awarded to the military dictator Pervez Musharraf.
Sources in Pakistan told IANS that Chief Justice Khosa ensured that the trial in the high treason case against former President and army chief of Pakistan Pervez Musharraf was completed before he retired. Khosa, who has served as the Chief Justice of Pakistan for over 11 months, retires on December 20.
The special court verdict which came three days before his retirement has drawn flak from both the Pakistan Army and the civilian government headed by Prime Minister Imran Khan. The Khan government has decided to defend Musharraf in an appeal against the court verdict.
“Justice Khosa is a tough Baloch who has always been upright. He believes that as a Baloch warrior, he needs to do the right thing,” one of his friends, who did not wish to be named, told IANS over phone from Islamabad.
“Of course, it is also about his own legacy as a justice,” he added.
Justice Khosa has a record of delivering verdicts in over 55,000 cases in a career spanning around two decades. Of the many landmark judgements he passed, he earned fame for disqualifying two sitting Prime Ministers, Syed Yousaf Raza Gilani and Mian Nawaz Sharif, and restricting the extension period of the current army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa from three years to just six months.
He also upheld the death sentence to Mumtaz Qadri, the assassin of then Punjab Governor Salman Taseer, and acquitted Christian woman Aasia Bibi in an alleged blasphemy case.
Sources in Rawalpindi told IANS that the judiciary may have also found an opportunity to settle its old scores with the army. In 2007, Musharraf, who was President at the time, suspended Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry after pressing charges of corruption against him. The episode led to lawyers’ agitation, which eventually became the cause of Musharraf’s downfall.
Interestingly, the judiciary in a “confluence of interests” with the army ousted Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who was perceived to be a friend of India, another source in Pakistan said.
“The army turned against Nawaz Sharif when he tried to put his foot down after Pakistan sponsored terror attacks in Pathankot. Eventually, they chose Imran Khan as their candidate,” a Karachi-based source said.
Prime Minister Imran Khan, sources in Islamabad said, will do anything to appease the military. “The army is right now furious over the verdict. They don’t want to set a precedent where any institution becomes more powerful than them. Since Imran Khan runs a puppet government, it is natural for him to support and defend Musharraf,” a source said.
Most political parties, including Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), which has accused Musharraf of having their leader Benazir Bhutto assassinated, “are secretly happy about the death sentence but nobody is publicly going to say anything that offends the army in this country,” a journalist in Islamabad said.