Events have moved fast in Pakistan during the last one month. A treason trial hanging fire for over seven years suddenly became alive, and a three-judge bench sentenced general Parvez Musharraf, the former Pakistan president to death for high treason. Award of the death sentence is a somber occasion, but one of the judges Justice Waqar Seth in his dissenting judgment made a strange recommendation. He added that Musharraf, if not brought to Pakistan and dies a natural death abroad, even then his body be brought back to Pakistan and publicly hung in D-Chowk for three days, Newsweek Pakistan has reported.

This would appear to be a comical judgment, and the BBC has reported that the observation and recommendation of the judge have given grist to the mills that this verdict is biased.

The judgment has raised the hackles of the government and the army, which were not keen that the verdict on Musharraf be announced. However, the Chief Justice didn't play ball and directed the special court to continue with the trial in absentia, as Musharraf was in hiding in Dubai. The last reports indicate that he is undergoing treatment in a Dubai hospital.

Reference against Justice Seth

Federal Law Minister Farogh Naseem has announced that the government has decided to file a reference at the Supreme Judicial Council against Justice Seth for his observation at para 66 of the case. The government does have a point as the sentence of death by hanging is carried out only on a living person and not a dead man. Death by hanging is the mode of execution in Pakistan.

There has been one case earlier of a Pakistan prime minister being hanged to death. The man hanged was Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, who was hanged after a farcical trial at the behest of General Zia- Ul-Haq, then military dictator of Pakistan in 1979.

The observation of Justice Seth has detracted attention from the verdict. Pakistan has not yet reached the stage of action like the Taliban, who hanged Ex-Afghan President Najib's body for three days, and it was eaten by vultures.

Appeal

The judgment will be appealed, but there is a catch. Pakistan law requires that for an appeal, an accused must be in Pakistan and represent to the court. This will not happen as Musharraf has no intention of coming back. Last time he came he was arrested, but he was able to flee the country on the grounds of getting "treatment" abroad. BBC has reported that the 76-year-old general is undergoing treatment in a hospital in Dubai.

The wheel has turned full circle, and Musharraf is facing something similar to what he had dished out to the earlier prime minister Nawaz Sharif. He had overthrown him in a military coup and got him sentenced to life in prison for high treason.

Perhaps Musharraf will reflect on his earlier actions. In any case, whatever happens, this judgment is a watershed in Pakistan politics as for the first time in 72 years, the Judiciary has asserted itself, and the Pakistan army is in the dock.

Last word

To outsiders, it is inconceivable that the Pakistan Army, whose chief was given a three-year extension recently and had a string of defeats to its credit, still calls the shots. It had lost half the country in the 1971 war with India. This judgment will go a long way in denting the shield of invincibility of the army in Pakistan. It's also an abject lesson that those who ride the tiger are eaten by the tiger.

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