The news items regarding impeachment of Pakistani President Musharraf are gaining time and space in global media daily. In this regard, a charge sheet containing offences committed by military general turned president Musharraf during his long tenure is likely to be forwarded in parliament next week by the ruling coalition leaders, Asif Ali Zardari and Nawaz Sharif. The initiative of Impeachment decision is taken at a time when Pakistan is passing through complex and worst kind of political, economic and security crisis.
Let’s have a look how impeachment proceedings started in political history of nations and how many government officials worldwide were convicted due to which reasons.
Impeachment is a British invention that started from England in the 14th century.
Warren Hastings: The impeachment (1787) and trial (1788-95) of Warren Hastings was among the last of the English cases. Warren Hastings was a British colonial administrator & governor-general in India. He worked for the English East India Company from 1750. In 1786 Edmund Burke introduced an impeachment process against him on charges of corruption; after a trial that lasted from 1788 to 1795, Hastings was acquitted. However, impeachment has not been used for over two hundred years (the last impeachment trial was of Henry Dundas, 1st Viscount Melville in 1806).
Henry Dundas was a British political figure and a member of the India Board of Control. As its president in 1785, he was accused of abusing his powers of patronage by promoting sons of the Scottish gentry to lucrative colonial positions.
Tony Blair: Tony Blair Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 2 May 1997 to 27 June 2007 from Labour Party. On 25 August 2004, Plaid Cymru MP Adam Price announced his intention to move for the impeachment of Tony Blair for his role in involving Britain in the 2003 invasion of Iraq under allegedly false justification. In response Peter Hain, the Commons Leader, insisted that impeachment was obsolete, given modern government’s responsibility to parliament.
In 2006, General Sir Michael Rose revived the call for the impeachment of the United Kingdom’s Prime Minister, Tony Blair.
US Congress regards impeachment as a power to be used only in extreme cases. There have been 16 impeachments tried by the Senate and seven convictions. The House has initiated impeachment proceedings only 62 times since 1789 (most recently President Bill Clinton), and only the following 16 federal officers have been impeached.Three of the best-known cases, which did not result in conviction, were those of Supreme Court Justice Samuel Chase, President Andrew Johnson, and President Bill Clinton.
Andrew Johnson, 17th President of the United States from April 15, 1865 – March 4, 1869 was impeached in 1868 after violating the then-newly created Tenure of Office Act. President Johnson was acquitted of all charges by a single vote in the Senate.
Richard Nixon 37th president of USA from January 20, 1969 – August 9, 1974. In 1974 the Judiciary Committee of the House of Representatives voted to bring impeachment charges against President Richard Nixon due to Watergate scandal, but Nixon resigned before the House took action.
Bill Clinton, 42nd President of the United States from January 20, 1993 – January 20, 2000, the third-youngest president, was impeached on December 19, 1998 by the House of Representatives on grounds of perjury to a grand jury and obstruction of justice. President Clinton was acquitted of the obstruction charge by a 50 to 50 vote in the Senate.
William W. Belknap 30th United States Secretary of War (September 22, 1829 – October 13, 1890) was a Army general, government administrator, and United States Secretary of War. He is the only Cabinet secretary ever to have been impeached by the United States House of Representatives for allegedly having received money in return for post tradership appointments. He resigned before his trial, and was later acquitted.
William Blount was a United States statesman and Democratic-Republican Senator from Tennessee (1796–1797). He was the first U.S. Senator to be expelled from the Senate and the only Senator expelled outside of the Civil War.
Associate Justice Samuel Chase Samuel Chase (April 17, 1741 – June 19, 1811) was an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court and was impeached in 1804 for allegedly letting his partisan leanings affect his court decisions. Chase was acquitted.
Twelve other federal judges including Alcee Hastings a lawyer and judge in Florida and a member of the House of Representatives since 1993. In 1988, he was impeached was impeached and convicted for taking over $150,000 in bribe money in exchange for sentencing leniency and removed from office for corruption and perjury. He is only the sixth federal judge to be impeached and removed from office in American history.
Dick Cheney, the Vice President of the United States: Dennis Kucinich introduced articles for the impeachment against Dick Cheney, 46th and current Vice President of the United. He charges Cheney with manipulating the evidence of Iraq’s weapons program, deceiving the nation about Iraq’s connection to al-Qaeda, and threatening aggression against Iran in violation of the United Nations charter
George Bush: Dennis Kucinich, also brought proceedings to impeach George Bush, the forty-third and current President of the United States for orchestrating the invasion of Iraq. On July 10, 2008, Kucinich introduced one article of impeachment against President George W. Bush for misleading Congress into war.
It is highly noteworthy that polls in 2007 have shown public support ranging between 39% and 45% in favor of impeaching Bush, and between 46% and 55% opposed. The House of Representatives Judiciary Committee has not considered the impeachment of President Bush, and the House of Representatives has taken no action to do so. The Democratic Party leadership has indicated that they have no intention of resolving to impeach him.
Boris Nikolayevich Yeltsin was the first President of the Russian Federation, serving from 1991 to 1999.In 1995-1999, the Duma made several attempts to impeach then President Boris Yeltsin due to launching war in Chechnya, ordering shelling parliament in 1993, ruining the armed forces, waging genocide against Russian people through economic policies, but Communist opponents never had a sufficient amount of votes for the process to reach the Federation Council. President Yeltsin has easily survived an attempt by Communist opponents in the lower house of the Russian parliament to unseat him.
Fernando Collor de Mello, president of Brazil from 1990 to 1992 was impeached in 1992on the ground for confiscating money from bank accounts from the people and froze their savings accounts. This was viewed by many Brazilians as violation of their civil rights. Congress rejected his resignation letter when he resigned to avoid being impeached.
India: No Indian President has faced impeachment proceedings. Hence, the provisions for impeachment have never been tested.
Abolhassan Banisadr, was the first President of Iran, following the 1979 Iranian Revolution and the abolition of the monarchy. Banisadr was impeached on June 21, 1981 by the Majlis (the Iranian Parliament), allegedly because of his moves against the clerics in power specifically Mohammad Beheshti, the head of the judicial system at the time and removed from office. Banisadr fled to France and lives in Versailles, near Paris, in a villa closely guarded by French police.
President Traian B?sescu is the current President of Romania, inaugurated on December 20, 2004 and former Merchant Navy officer. He was recently impeached by the Parliament. A referendum was held on May 19, 2007. A large majority of the electorate voted against removing the president from office. B?sescu is the first president in the history of Romania who has been officially suspended.
Andrés Pérez Rodríguez was 55th President of Venezuela from 1974 to 1979 and again from 1989 to 1993. He was the first Venezuelan president to be forced out of the office on May 20, 1993 by the Supreme Court, for the misappropriation of 250 million bolivars belonging to a presidential discretionary fund.
Rolandas Paksas is a well known politician in Lithuania and currently heads the Liberal Democrats Party in Lithuania. Paksas was convicted in 2005 by a District Court of Vilnius for disclosing classified information (state secrets) during his time in office as a president of the Republic. He is the first European head of state to have been impeached.
Later on, the Supreme Court, on December 13, 2005, acquitted Paksas and overturned the verdict of the District Court. Paksas and his party are currently looking for ways to annul the Constitutional Court’s ruling since it prevents him from holding major public office again.
Two giant powerbrokers Asif Ali Zardari and Nawaz Sharif are in efforts to collect ammunition for the impeachment of President Pervez Musharraf on the ground that he “eroded the trust of the nation”. The Pakistan Supreme Court has previously declared the Yahya Khan and Zia ul-Haq dictatorships illegal. On both occasions, however, the decisions occurred after the two men had relinquished power.
Political gains might be behind the impeachment drama but it would be a step farther towards establishing the rule of law in Pakistan that is ruled by military generals more than three times in its total life span.