Former Pakistani generals and soldiers are nearly unanimous in calling for a treason trial for former military dictator Pervez Musharraf, who is fighting hard to avoid appearing before a special court.
Talat Masood, a security analyst and retired general, told RFE/RL that Musharraf must be prosecuted for violating the constitution. "It will be quite unjustified and unlawful if one says that Musharraf should not be prosecuted," he said.
Syed Nazir, a former brigadier general of the Pakistani army, says Musharraf's failure to show up at the treason trial is creating aversion among former military men. "Mistakes committed by Musharraf and the means [he is using to avoid the trail] have turned his popularity graph down." he said. "People who were supporting him are gradually backing away."
Nazir says that Musharraf is increasingly seen as a liability for Pakistan's powerful military. "Whenever I discuss Musharraf's trial with some retired military officers, we conclude that a former top military officer should not resort to dubious tactics to evade appearing before court," he said.
The 70-year-old Musharraf is currently in a military hospital in the northwestern Pakistani city of Rawalpindi with a heart condition. He was rushed to the hospital after falling ill while on his way to the court on January 2. In December a special court began his trial on a charge of high treason for suspending the constitution and imposing emergency rule in November 2007.
The former president and military chief who ruled the country from 1999 to 2008 has brandished his connections to the military to try and avoid the court.
In late December Musharraf told reporters that the "whole army is totally with me." He claimed that the army is "upset" at his trial because "I have led the army from the front."
But former colleagues were quick to challenge his claims. In a statement on December 30, the Pakistan Ex-Servicemen Society and Pakistan Ex-Servicemen Association claimed that the army was not involved in Musharraf's decision to impose emergency rule in November 2007.
"Members [of the two organizations] consider declaration of emergency and sacking of judges as his personal acts," the statement said. It advised Musharraf to accept the rule of law and let the court decide his case on its merit.
Some former military men, however, have taken Musharraf's side. On January 11 scores of former military officers declared their support for him. Admiral Shahid Karimullah, former head of the Pakistani Navy, said that Pakistan First, a new organization of former military men, will try to protect Musharraf. He added that the treason trial of a former military chief was a "big concern" for former soldiers.
Although the current leadership of the Pakistani army is tight-lipped about the trial, former military chief Ashfaq Parvez Kayani reportedly advised Musharraf against returning to Pakistan last year.
Musharraf assumed power in a bloodless military coup in 1999 and ruled Pakistan until 2008. Since his return to Pakistan last spring he has faced several other charges in separate cases relating to his rule.
Musharraf is the first dictator to stand trial among the four military strongmen who ruled Pakistan for most of its history since independence in 1947.
Saad Muhammad Khan, a former Pakistani brigadier general, said that Musharraf's trial will discourage future military leaders from taking over the government unlawfully. "As a constitutional democracy Pakistan has to set an example," he said. "Whoever suspends the constitution will be punished."