ISLAMABAD: Inadequate court assurances forced Pakistan’s former military ruler to step down from his party’s leadership ahead of the country’s general elections next month, an All Pakistan Muslim League (APML) spokesperson has told Arab News.
“We convened a central executive committee meeting on Thursday and unanimously nominated (general secretary) Dr. Amjad as the new chairman of the party and we will now campaign for the elections,” said spokesperson Mahreen Malik Adam.
Former president Gen. (retired) Pervez Musharraf will remain the party’s patron-in-chief “till the time his disqualification case is not dismissed by the court,” she said.
The newly elected APML chairman, Dr. Mohammad Amjad, on Friday told Arab News that Musharraf sent his resignation to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Wednesday, June 20.
“I have been elected as party chairman by the party’s central executive committee and on June 20 we notified the ECP of our decision,” he said.
A court order implemented before the 2013 general election disqualified the former military ruler, who once wielded enormous power, from participating in politics for life.
For several months he remained under house arrest over a number of court cases stemming from his actions during his nine-year reign in Pakistan, including a charge of treason for imposing a state of emergency on Nov. 3, 2007 during his military rule.
He was eventually granted bail and went into self-imposed exile in Dubai.
The former army chief was indicted in the treason case in March 2014 after he appeared before the court and denied all charges of imposing emergency rule in 2007. The same month he traveled to the UAE for medical treatment and has since remained abroad.
In March 2018, a special court directed the federal government to block Musharraf’s CNIC and passport if he failed to appear before the bench in the treason case.
The special court later declared him a proclaimed offender and ordered the confiscation of his property.
Musharraf is also wanted in the courts for other cases, including the Benazir Bhutto murder case, the Red Mosque operation, and the Akbar Bugti murder in Baluchistan during his regime.
Pakistan’s Supreme Court in June this year ruled that Musharraf should be allowed to file his nomination papers for the general election, pending a decision on his appeal against the decision to ban him from standing. The panel of three judges also assured Musharraf’s defense counsel that the retired general would not be arrested on arrival.
That directive was withdrawn when Musharraf failed to appear before the court twice last week.
Adam called the court’s assurance a “honey trap” since it granted safe passage to the APML chief without arrest from the airport to the court on his return. “Other than that, there was no assurance that he will not be arrested,” Adam said.
She said: “He was not even given assurance that he would be allowed to participate in party campaigns with his workers” and no satisfactory guarantee was provided by the court on whether “his name would be listed or not on the Exit Control List (ECL),” which bars an individual from traveling overseas.
Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who was disqualified for life by the Supreme Court in 2017, is allowed to hold election campaigns, address large political gatherings and the state didn’t bar his travel despite several corruption cases against him and his family, she said, a relaxation “not given to our leader which is very unfair.”
“To return and get arrested or placed under house detention or jail and not able to do anything for the party, has no benefit for APML,” Adam said, defending Musharraf’s decision not to return.
Musharraf founded the APML in 2010. Despite the party announcing a boycott of the 2013 election just days before the balloting, two of its candidates contested and won two seats from Chitral.
The newly elected chairman believes Musharraf’s resignation in no way signifies an end to his political career. “Musharraf has no desire to quit politics and his resignation is purely for legal purposes. When he returns, we will re-elect him as chairman of APML,” Amjad said.
Political analyst Qamar Cheema believes that there is no future for APML in Pakistan.
“If Musharraf returns, there will be fresh disconnect between the military and civilian government, and that is not something the military wants ... they (the military) no longer want to take a risk on him, he has become a liability … a big personality who rattles the media once in a while,” Cheema said.