There is a new angle to the age-old tale of clandestine funds and political manipulation in Pakistan.
The Supreme Court on Wednesday took notice of a report that the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP)-led government withdrew millions of rupees from the Intelligence Bureau (IB) secret fund back in 2008.
During the proceedings of the Asghar Khan petition, Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry pointed out a report in The Express Tribune that appeared on Wednesday, which disclosed that the current government had withdrawn Rs270 million from the IB fund without specifying the reasons.
The report, quoting sources, had said that the ruling PPP wanted to use this money to push its political agenda in Punjab, where the government had been formed by rival Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N).
It also highlighted a similar exercise by the PPP back in 1989, wherein it withdrew over Rs90 million from IB’s secret funds in a bid to manipulate politicians and save its government.
The chief justice asked Attorney-General Maulvi Anwarul Haq if he had read the report, to which the federation’s top lawyer responded in the negative. The attorney-general said that neither was he aware of the case, nor the veracity of the report. The court asked him to place the story – captioned “Govt withdrew millions from Intelligence Bureau’s account” – on the record and, in the meantime, verify the veracity of the report. The attorney-general has also been asked to contact the newspaper to provide the documentary evidence of the story. The court has also issued notices to the paper, The Express Tribune, for this purpose.
Until now, the case of using or benefitting from secret funds, currently being heard in the Supreme Court, was largely implicating the opposition PML-N, and its leaders Nawaz and Shahbaz Sharif – and portrayed the PPP as the victim.
The irony was not lost on Shahbaz, currently the Punjab chief minister. Addressing to a press conference on Wednesday at his residence, he said that he was aware of how the funds siphoned from the IB’s account were used – and added that he was willing to go to court, if summoned, to prove who took “Rs500 million” from IB’s account to topple the Punjab government in 2009.
The reference was to current Interior Minister Rehman Malik — who didn’t take too kindly to the Punjab chief minister’s allegation. Malik announced that he would file for damages — and sue Shahbaz to the tune of Rs10 billion.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 15th, 2012.