Decision on Musharraf’s return will be made ‘elsewhere’: Gilani

Most lawmakers sympathetic towards former dictator’s plea to return as Senate debates matter

Speculations regarding the return of former president and military dictator Gen. (r) Pervez Musharraf to Pakistan due to his “frail” health echoed in the Senate on Wednesday and lawmakers from both sides of the aisle expressed their opinions on Musharraf’s homecoming, with former prime minister Yousaf Raza Gilani passing a remark that such decisions are “made elsewhere”.

The former army chief, who ruled Pakistan for nine years, made the headlines again after he had expressed his wish to spend his remaining years in Pakistan. The sources close to the ex-army chief had said that Musharraf wanted to move to Pakistan at the earliest. His family said it was impossible for him to recover.

The reports were followed by a statement by Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) supreme leader Nawaz Sharif, wherein he urged the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government to allow the former dictator to come back despite the fact that he was the one who had come to power after toppling Nawaz’s government.

Similarly, the Pakistan Army spokesperson expressed support for the return of the former chief during a press conference on Tuesday.

Starting the debate, Jamaat-e-Islami Senator Mushtaq Ahmad Khan, referring to reports of Musharraf’s possible return, said, “There are talks regarding allowing Musharraf to come back to Pakistan… Nawaz Sharif has also issued a statement… The country and the constitution suffered grave injustice but our hands are tired… we are practically slaves.”

He recalled that Musharraf was the absolute ruler of Pakistan for 10 years. He “abrogated the constitution, attacked the judiciary… a former chief justice was dragged by his hair,” the JI lawmaker recalled.

The Peshawar High Court (PHC) ruling is there, he said, referring to a verdict by the late PHC chief justice Waqar Seth, who had sentenced Musharraf to death in a treason case.

During the Senate session on Wednesday, most lawmakers were sympathetic towards Musharraf’s plea. Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) leader Yousaf Raza Gilani said if Musharraf wanted to come back then Pakistan was his home and added that “they do not oppose” his return. However, he added that a similar treatment should be meted out to other leaders as well.

“We cannot decide [on his return]… these decisions will be made elsewhere. When he flew out of the country, could you stop him? And now when he will be coming back, would you be able to stop it?” he said, adding, “I had forgiven Musharraf when he was still in Pakistan.”

Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) leader Abdul Ghafoor Haideri also endorsed his return. He said Musharraf was fighting for his life and should be allowed to come back. “It would not be appropriate to create hurdles in his return.”

PML-N Senator Irfan Siddiqui said a person on his deathbed should not be stopped from returning. “If not Pakistan, where else will he go?” he said, adding that if the law and the constitution were strong then let them chart their course after his return.

Senator Raza Rabbani agreed that Musharraf had committed several atrocities. “But if his health is not good and he wants to return to the country, there is no problem.”

He, however, pointed out that he could not talk on behalf of his party. “Things are very different when a person has been convicted by a court under Article 6 of the Constitution (high treason). It would be very inappropriate to give state burial to such a person,” the PPP leader added.

Meanwhile, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Senator Ejaz Chaudhry called for the law to run its course. “Pervez Musharraf or whoever went out of the country for treatment should come back and the law should then take the due course.” The country, he added, would only grow if the rule of law was equal for all.