The trial of former Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf can help the Pakistan and its polity come to terms with the many anti-democratic chapters of its history, a leading daily said Wednesday.
Four military dictators have come and gone but never before has one been summoned to court to answer for his crimes against the Constitution, said an editorial in the Dawn.
"Pervez Musharraf may not have been in court (Tuesday) but his determination to return to Pakistan and participate in the upcoming elections has already triggered events that could have far-reaching consequences for the country's latest attempt to entrench democratic norms," it said.
The daily said it is essential that justice be done and also be seen to be done.
"The chief justice recusing himself from the hearings was a welcome first step given how the ex-military strongman targeted Chief Justice (Iftikhar Muhammad) Chaudhry personally. Another good sign was that the two-member bench that began hearings demonstrated no undue haste or eagerness to see Musharraf behind bars or gratuitously humiliated.
"The ex-president and dictator may have shown enormous contempt for the Constitution and democratic process but the majesty of that very system requires that he be treated fairly and lawfully," it noted.
The daily observed that the original sin of Musharraf occurred in 1999 when he ousted the elected government of then-prime minister Nawaz Sharif who had attempted to sack his army chief - "an ill-advised move that was nevertheless Sharif's political and legal right".
"In that episode, Gen Musharraf far from acted alone and history is yet to reveal who the protagonists were and what role each individual played."
It went on to say that if handled correctly, "a trial of Gen Musharraf can help the country and its polity come to terms with the many anti-democratic chapters of its history".
"That the opportunity has arisen at a moment the country is preparing for an unprecedented, civilian-led transition is one of those quirks of history. Ultimately, for the democratic project to become irreversible, state and society will have to internalise democratic norms - and here is a moment to both reconcile with the past and set a precedent for the future," it added.