It never rains but it pours. Pervez Musharraf, Pakistanís former army chief and president, had his dreams of making a political comeback dashed when he was banned by the court from running for public office for life prior to the general elections in May. Not even the insipid public response to his return or his political activities had earlier managed to dissuade Mr Musharraf from holding on to his ambition of becoming Pakistanís Ďsaviourí, as he put it. Mr Musharraf knew that he had enemies galore ó in the civilian establishment, in the judiciary and, of course, among the lawless Taliban who were waiting to riddle him with bullets. But the lure of power and the aura of the Pakistan army, with which he still retains his connections, had been so strong that he had felt immune to the threats of his adversaries. The past few months must have been a learning experience for Pakistanís former dictator. He has not only been disqualified from electoral participation, but he has also been jailed, in a first-ever such action being taken against a former military chief. The sentence for his incarceration first came in the trial over the detention of members of the judiciary during the 2007 emergency. Then it was for the ongoing trial over his alleged role in the murder of the Baloch tribal leader, Nawab Akbar Bugti. The latest charge against Mr Musharraf for being responsible for the murder of Benazir Bhutto is another issue that is bound to make him conscious of the monumental error he made by deciding to return to Pakistan.
Quite clearly, Mr Musharraf seems to have misjudged the strength of his adversaries and the benefaction of his friends apart from miscalculating the mental age of Pakistanís electorate. Except for the advantage of having his farmhouse being converted into a sub-jail ó perhaps to circumvent logistical problems or to preserve the last shred of dignity of the one-time occupant of Pakistanís highest office ó Mr Musharraf has been treated no better than an ordinary criminal. The matter-of-factness with which the civilian establishment has pressed charges against the former military dictator and the judiciary has deliberated over the issues, and the equanimity with which these rulings have been received by Pakistanís public show the distance the country has travelled since Mr Musharrafís own time as its ruler. Pakistan is desperate to come out of the armyís shadow, only the army will not have it.