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Pak CJ issue: Musharraf seeks face-saving way out
B Raman
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March 17, 2007 19:27 IST

It is reliably learnt that a group of six corps commanders in the Pakistan Army has jointly written to President Pervez Musharraf expressing their disquiet over the unwise manner in which the case of Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhury, the suspended chief justice, has been handled by Musharraf and the Inter-Services Intelligence.

The army officers have also mentioned the shocking ransacking of the offices of the GEO TV, a private TV channel and the manhandling of Hamid Mir, its leading journalist, who is well known all over the world, on March 16, 2007.

They have not questioned Musharraf's action in complaining about the chief justice to the Supreme Judicial Council, but have stated that he should have waited for the result of its inquiry instead of suspending him even before the inquiry had started.

The army officers stated that this has weakened his credibility, and his action in placing the suspended chief justice under virtual house arrest has made matters worse.

They have also strongly criticised Musharraf's action in ordering the blacking out of live telecasts of public demonstrations in support of the chief justice.

The officers have strongly advised Musharraf to seek a face-saving solution before the situation worsens further.

Rattled by the continuing demonstrations, the criticism by some of his officers and the first public remarks by the US State Department indicating unease over his action, Musharraf has asked Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali, former prime minister, who is a good personal friend of the suspended chief justice, to find a face-saving way out. Both are from Balochistan.

The face-saving formula now under discussion envisages a ruling by the SJC that the charges against the suspended chief justice were not serious enough to warrant any action against him, his restoration to his position as the chief justice and an assurance by him that while the cases relating to the missing persons (many of them are in the US detention centre in Guantanamo Bay) would continue to be on his file, he will not pursue them.

The face-saving formula also entails that the judge adjourn the hearings on them repeatedly. The chief justice is till now not prepared to give this assurance.

Musharraf has promised Jamali that if he persuades the suspended chief justice to cooperate, he would restore him (Jamali) to the post of the prime minister from which he was replaced by Shaukat Aziz in 2004.

As part of the damage control, Musharraf has blamed the police and the paramilitary forces for the ransacking of the GEO TV office and the manhandling of Hamid Mir. He is trying to project it as a rogue operation by the police and paramilitary officers, which shocked him.

Musharraf has already suspended 15 police officers for this. These suspensions have caused resentment against him in the police.

Reliable police sources say that the order to silence GEO TV and Hamid Mir came from Tariq Aziz, Musharraf's national security adviser. The police officers are furious that now they are being made the fall guy.

Under Pakistan Army rules, it is an act of indiscipline for army personnel to address joint letters or petitions. The fact that despite this the six corps commanders have jointly addressed a letter indicates the seriousness of their concern over the turn of events.

The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail: 

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