Asghar Khan petition: Ominous warning to former generals

Published: March 15, 2012

Chief justice said to Former ISI chief General Asad Durrani: “We cannot run behind individuals, we are not a regional court. Therefore, it is better for you to engage a lawyer." PHOTO: AFP/FILE

ISLAMABAD: 

An austere message was conveyed to once powerful generals on Wednesday by the Supreme Court: You have one last chance to engage proper defence counsels to plead your case.

A three-member bench of the Supreme Court hearing Asghar Khan’s petition alleging that the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) rigged the 1990 general elections by distributing millions of rupees among several politicians, was ominous in its words: “Bear in mind that you were sitting generals at that time and were holding esteemed designations. Your confessions can have serious repercussions. Almost all the matters are now settled and we will soon decide the case.”

The bench, headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, said it could make the report and in-camera briefings on the matter public, adding that it seemed the intelligence agencies were not working within their mandate.

The court also asked the attorney-general (AG) to assist the court in the case, particularly regarding the role of intelligence agencies in political affairs of the country.

Former ISI chief General Assad Durrani said that he was individually responsible for his crime and ISI was not involved in this episode. In response, the chief justice said: “We cannot run behind individuals, we are not a regional court. Therefore, it is better for you to engage a lawyer.

“Despite the fact that you have conceded your role in the disbursement of national money during the 1990 election and there remains no ambiguity in this regard, in terms of constitutional provision, we are asking you (to engage lawyers)… so you do not complain that court did not give you chance…”

Younis Habib – a central protagonist of the scandal and the former chief of the Mehran Bank – submitted another affidavit in response to then army chief General (retd) Mirza Aslam Beg and Assad Durrani’s affidavits. The court reprimanded him for addressing the chief justice in his letter personally.

“Tomorrow you will say on TV shows that you often exchanged letters with the chief justice,” Justice Khilji Arif remarked.

Classified content?

Upon the court’s query, the AG told the Supreme Court that there was no problem in declassifying the in-camera statements of Durrani and former interior minister Major Gen (retd) Naseerullah Khan Babar. Durrani and Babar had recorded their statements during the hearing of Asghar Khan’s petition in 1999.

The apex court said that it could pass a written order to make the report public.

“There is no issue in declassifying the statements as many things are already public,” AG Maulvi Anwarul Haq told the bench.

However, the court expressed discontentment with the AG for failing to produce the former inquiry commission reports of Mehran Bank and Habib Bank. The AG replied that they could not be retrieved since the relevant officials of the Ministry of Interior were currently on a foreign trip and the law ministry did not posses the reports. Furious at the reply, the bench sarcastically remarked if the interior secretary carried all the reports in his pockets while travelling.

The AG sought more time from the court to present the documents in court.

During the hearing, Durrani told the court that there were “elements” outside the ISI who were appointed for the task of distributing this money. To this, the chief justice said: “You [Durrani] were holding office at the time the money was being distributed, how can you deny ISI’s involvement?”

Mehran Bank former chief Habib submitted an application in the Supreme Court for the recovery of the money allegedly distributed by the ISI to various politicians in 1990. In the application, Habib requested that a judicial commission be established for the recovery of the money.

(Read: Governance model and ‘mehrangate’)

Published in The Express Tribune, March 15th, 2012.

Reader Comments (14)

  • Disco
    Mar 15, 2012 - 5:33AM

    At least the Generals are answering to the court, rather than hiding behind their respective institutions like the politicians do. Seems to me the Generals respect the court more than our politicians, to whom the SC is nothing but a joke.

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  • dr j tipu
    Mar 15, 2012 - 6:32AM

    PPP, PMLN , JUI, JI, and other such croonies have all lost any moral grounds for even looking people of Pakitan in the eye, rubbish parties led by rubbish leadership that has only indulged in selfish temporary gains at the hands of military, and then they blame military for “interefering” with politics of the nation. what a shamefully despicable situation. For me, IK all the way…………………

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  • Abid Ali
    Mar 15, 2012 - 7:38AM

    They have more nefarious role in the destruction of this country. Give them exemplary punishment and they should also declare properties before and after given high position.

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  • Billoo Bhaya
    Mar 15, 2012 - 7:53AM

    A sordid episode in the history of the Republic of the Land of the Pure.

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  • Sheikh Alu Bukhara
    Mar 15, 2012 - 7:55AM

    This type of stuff helps build a true democracy, brick by brick.

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  • Mirza
    Mar 15, 2012 - 8:52AM

    Once again this case has proved beyond a shadow of doubt that the army/ISI has been sowing the seeds of corruption and manipulation of election results against secular parties and in favor of rightwing elements. Not only the army sows the seeds of corruption but perpetuates it among the society to control it at will. Then when it suits them the generals call them corrupt and take over directly. During more than three decades of dictatorial rule of generals the corruption could not be controlled and the country did not become free. How many more such cases are hidden from East Pakistan to Abbottabad to Mehran Base and GHQ to Kargil, the list goes on and on.

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  • Yaida
    Mar 15, 2012 - 9:08AM

    @Disco: Thousands of politicians served time in jail before this. How many Generals have been jailed in Pakistan? Can we have some truth said at least now? Everybody in Pakistan has at least one close relative working in the army thereby enjoying unconditional support. It is time they were held accountable. If they are innocent, they have nothing to fear.

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  • Iram
    Mar 15, 2012 - 11:02AM

    Nawaz Sharif 3.5M or Shahbaz Sharif 2.5M, what a shame.

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  • MUNIB
    Mar 15, 2012 - 1:04PM

    @Disco
    they are facing the music because they are retired. If they were in service would they allow this to even begin ?

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  • Meekal Ahmed
    Mar 15, 2012 - 2:59PM

    send them all to jail.

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  • Nadeem
    Mar 15, 2012 - 5:52PM

    If at the end of this case no one goes to jail Pakistan will have certified itself as a true banana republic. On the other hand, if a general or two end up behind bars we can justly claim that the country has turned a corner toward a brighter future.

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  • Mar 15, 2012 - 6:07PM

    Good advice was given to them,
    it is a fact,they know nothing about existing law and the constitution.
    IN case,
    had they knowledge regarding the relevant law or constitutional limitation they would never violated beyond their mandate.
    In the history of the country,
    this is a first chief justice hearing the case in which generals are involved,not all but some has been blackmailing the governments elected by the people of Pakistan.
    What are meanings of treason or high treason,it is need of the time to clarify,it must be explained on this occasion.
    After execution of a leader,internationally recognized in politics the nation understood the meanings of section 109 cr’pc.but still failed understand the meanings of treason.

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  • Mar 15, 2012 - 6:13PM

    In camera,
    it is a old tradition,
    let the cat come out from the bag,
    so that the whole nation may be able to know
    what kind of charector politicians and general has been playing
    in the national affairs.
    *

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  • Mar 15, 2012 - 6:39PM

    The circumstances,passing through,
    the character playing by,
    nightmare,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,nightmare,,,,,nightmare.

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