Proceedings in Air Marshal (retd) Asghar Khan’s petition seem to have hit a major snag on Monday with the Supreme Court being told that crucial inquiry reports regarding Mehran Bank and Habib Bank had been ‘misplaced’.
An irked chief justice warned that criminal proceedings would be filed against those found responsible for the disappearance of the reports, compiled by judicial commissions in 1994 and 1996, if they did not surface.
The commissions had conducted the initial inquiries into the distribution of millions of rupees among a number of key politicians by the country’s premier intelligence agencies in a bid to rig the 1990 elections and prevent the Pakistan Peoples Party from winning.
When Attorney General Irfan Qadir informed the court that the reports had been misplaced, a three-member bench, headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, expressed concern – and directed Qadir to convene a meeting with responsible figure heads on the matter.
The attorney general was also directed to trace the documents and submit a written reply to the court.
The commission’s reports would provide the correct facts – otherwise many statements given by the accused in the case are politically driven, the chief justice said.
Qadir added that he was also not sure whether the judicial commission handed over its reports to the relevant authorities or not.
The chief justice also recalled that some parts of the reports were published in the media, due to which criminal proceedings were initiated against some persons, including former chief of Mehran Bank Yunus Habib, who is charged with helping distribute the money to politicians.
Akram Sheikh, counsel for former army chief Mirza Aslam Beg, said that Habib possessed a 2,000-acre farmhouse in Sindh worth Rs100 billion. However, the chief justice observed that the court would only focus on the petition filed by Khan, which pertained to whether or not the money was distributed among politicians.
The court also directed the National Accountability Bureau to provide information on the plea bargains of those persons against whom criminal proceedings were initiated in the case, on the next date of hearing.
The court also directed the law secretary to collect relevant records from the banking courts and submit it before the bench.
In its written order, the court observed that the attorney general sought some time to convene a meeting with the secretaries of law and interior, as well as other relevant officials to trace the reports.
Qadir also told the bench that he had discussed the issue with Interior Minister Rehman Malik. The attorney general said that Justice Saqib Nisar was the then law secretary and would, therefore, have a lot of information on the case.
However, the chief justice reminded him that Justice Nisar was not the law secretary in 1994, and added that since he is an honourable judge of the court, he could not be asked.
The attorney general, however, insisted that there was a need to approach former law secretary Justice (retd) Sheikh Riaz Hussain, Justice Nisar or then judicial commission secretary MA Farooqi regarding information on the reports.
The chief justice in his order again directed that the Intelligence Bureau (IB) to submit a report regarding the use and distribution of its secret funds in 1989 and in 2008.
The IB had submitted a reply to the court on the case earlier on Monday. However, the court observed that the details of the money spent had not been provided.
The attorney general was asked to get the details of the funds withdrawn from IB accounts. The court assured that the report would be kept classified.
The case has been adjourned till April 25.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 24th, 2012.