Pakistan’s former prime minister, Mr. Nawaz Sharif, has been found guilty of attempted murder, kidnapping, terrorism and hijacking. Mr. Sharif was spared the death penalty; instead, he was given two life sentences, his property was confiscated and he was fined 2 million rupees. His brother, a codefendant, was acquitted.
Mr. Sharif is unlikely to be much missed. His term in office was characterized by virtual economic collapse, widespread corruption and the elimination of any checks on his power. Pakistan followed India in developing a nuclear bomb and continued its reckless attempts to stir up trouble in Kashmir.
One of the architects of the Kashmir misadventures now rules Pakistan. Gen. Pervez Musharraf, former head of the army, seized control of the country in a bloodless coup Oct. 12. He claims to have deposed the prime minister only after Mr. Sharif tried to kill him by refusing to allow the plane the general was on to land at Karachi airport. Ostensibly, the trial was to determine the truth behind those allegations.
In fact, the ruling was no surprise. After seizing power, Mr. Musharraf had demanded that all judges in the country take a loyalty oath to the new government. That sort of vow does not lend itself to neutral judiciaries — at least not when those same judges are ruling on the events that created the new order.
That Mr. Sharif was not given the death penalty shows the government is capable of restraint. But that is not enough. Military rule should end, and democracy should be restored.
Pakistan has a sad history. Mr. Musharraf’s coup is the fourth time that the military has seized power; it has ruled Pakistan for almost half of its 52-year history. One prime minister has been executed, another assassinated, and now Mr. Sharif has been sentenced to life in prison. His predecessor, Ms. Benazir Bhutto, was convicted in 1998 on charges of corruption. Pakistan’s elite have failed their country. But the military’s assumption of power is no solution: History shows it is very much a part of the problem.
In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.