Pakistan’s powerful military finally broke its silence over former dictator Pervez Musharraf’s high treason trial and issued a thinly veiled threat to those who would “undermine the military’s institutional morale.” “Pakistan Army upholds the sanctity of all institutions and will resolutely preserve its own dignity and institutional pride,” army chief Raheel Sharif said, in response to “the concerns of soldiers on undue criticism of the institution [the army] in recent days.” Sharif, who was handpicked by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, made the remarks while visiting an elite commando unit (incidentally, Musharraf’s former unit). Dawn has the report:
The army chief’s extraordinarily hard-hitting statement released by the Inter-Services Public Relations [the army’s press office] did not directly link it to Musharraf’s trial, but some of the officers who had attended the Ghazi Base meeting, confirmed that discomfort within ranks over the issue formed the context of Gen Raheel’s comments. […]Gen Raheel was reportedly upset about the manner in which the discourse on Musharraf trial had digressed into army bashing and public humiliation of the former army chief. Statements by Defence Minister Khwaja Asif and Railways Minister Khwaja Saad Rafique on the treason case in particular were seen by the army as demeaning.The army had been privately conveying its reservations to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, but decided to go public after it was felt that he was not paying heed to the concern, an insider claimed.
In recent months, Nawaz Sharif’s government has touted the cooperation between the civil and military arms of Pakistan’s fragmented state. Both military officials and representatives talked about being “on the same page” on national security and foreign policy matters, including negotiations with the Taliban and Pakistan’s deepening alliance with Saudi Arabia. But for all this cooperation, there were bound to be differences between the two camps over the former dictator’s fate.Musharraf imprisoned and then exiled Nawaz Sharif when he seized power in a coup in 1999, and Nawaz hasn’t forgotten. Up to this point, the army hasn’t overtly interfered in Musharraf’s legal proceedings (he was indicted, after all), but the army may now be saying that enough is enough.