ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s military will protect its dignity “at all costs”, the army chief said on Monday in an apparent show of irritation over the treason trial of former army chief and president Pervez Musharraf.
Such talk from the army chief, General Raheel Sharif, the most powerful figure in Pakistan, is likely to raise concern about political intervention by the army, which would set back hopes for the development of democracy and civilian rule.
Last month, a Pakistani court indicted Musharraf on five counts of treason over his suspension of the constitution and imposition of emergency rule in 2007, when he was trying to extend his rule.
Musharraf, who first seized power as army chief in a 1999 coup and later became president as well, faces the death penalty if convicted. He has pleaded not guilty.
The case against Musharraf highlights the competition for influence between Pakistan’s three power centres: an increasingly assertive judiciary, the fledgling civilian government and the powerful military, which has ruled Pakistan for more than half of its 67-year-history.
Musharraf’s indictment has broken an unwritten rule that the top ranks of the military are untouchable.
“The Pakistan army looks at all institutions with respect,” Sharif said on a visit to a military base in response to questions from soldiers about recent criticism of the army, including, a military source said, one about the trial.
“But it will also preserve its own dignity and institutional pride at all costs.”
Sharif, speaking at a base in Tarbela, about 70km northwest of the capital, Islamabad, did not elaborate.
The former president Musharraf was forced to step down as president in 2008 after street protests spearheaded by the judiciary and an election in which his political supporters fared poorly against a pro-democracy party.