Given a chance, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif would strangle his archenemy and former military dictator Pervez Musharraf with his bare hands, but since he is the premier of a country and has to abide by the law, he must wait for the courts to decide the fate of the general’s neck.
Musharraf is being tried for treason over his 1999 military coup, in which he deposed the government and imprisoned Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. Back then, it was Sharif who was faced with the executioner’s noose. How times change.
However, certain things will somehow remain the same. The Saudis saved Nawaz Sharif’s skin all those years ago and today; many believe that the Kingdom will come to Musharraf’s rescue.
According to The News, a daily English language newspaper in Pakistan, the upcoming visit of Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al Faisal is aimed at ensuring safe passage for the former military dictator.
However, a Pakistani foreign office spokesperson has denied that there is any link between the prince’s visit and the ongoing trial. "This is normal interaction between states. Saudi Arabia and Pakistan enjoy a very close relationship and this would be the first high level visit after the new government in Pakistan took office," the official said.
As for Musharraf, he is apparently not in the best of health. Shadows were cast over his trial when he reportedly suffered from cardiac arrest while on his way to face a specially-convened court over the treason charges.
What happens next can either be called a stroke of genius or a startling coincidence. The former Pakistan military chief was taken to the Armed Forces Institute of Cardiology hospital in Rawalpindi. The general’s choice of an army hospital for his treatment raised a few eyebrows and prompted some political opponents to question if he will ever face the court.
“People should have expected this outcome. At some stage, the military was going to step in to protect its former chief and that is precisely what has happened,” said Ahmed Mukhtar, the country’s former defense minister who served under the last Pakistan People’s Party regime.
Attempts to get Musharraf out of the country on medical grounds failed when the Islamabad High Court rejected a related plea. Had the court accepted the dictator’s petition, the wheels of the grand plan could perhaps have been set in motion. Musharraf would have been out of the country and friendly a word from the visiting Saudi prince could have ensured that the situation remained that way.
Undoubtedly, there will be tense days ahead for the man who ruled Pakistan for almost a decade. The question is: will the court hang Musharraf over the treason charges or will some knight in shining armor – maybe even a prince - come to his rescue.
Many suspect that the latter case might prevail as the general still has some powerful friends abroad and in the military. And we all remember what happened the last time a Sharif government crossed swords with the army, whose ‘hospitality’ the former president is currently enjoying.