There are some who have criticised the Supreme Court’s proceedings in the Asghar Khan petition on the grounds that, even if the intelligence agencies did pay off politicians to influence elections, it happened more than 20 years ago and is irrelevant now. That is a dangerously misguided view. With elections scheduled to be held less than a year from now and with the military as powerful as ever, an investigation into the conduct of the intelligence agencies and those politicians who benefited from it is clearly in the public interest. This is what makes the April 23 revelation that reports regarding the petition compiled by judicial commissions in 1994 and 1996 had gone missing so disconcerting. Although there is a possibility that these reports may have been innocently misplaced, given our past especially with regard to threats — real and perceived — to democracy it is always better to err on the side of cynicism.
There are now two things that the Supreme Court and Attorney General Irfan Qadir must do. The first is to locate the missing documents since making a case against the ISI and corrupt politicians will be difficult if the judges have to rely solely on spoken testimony. Just about every politician in the vicinity of the Mehran Bank case has some ulterior motive or the other, making it very difficult to take their testimony at face value. Secondly, the Court must determine who was behind the disappearance of these documents. If it can establish who had the motive to make sure these reports are never aired in public, the Supreme Court will get further confirmation of the forces that were responsible for the bribery of politicians in the first place.
It is ironic that those who have previously complained the most vociferously about lost evidence are now most likely to stay quiet on the issue. When former ambassador to the US Husain Haqqani said that he no longer had the BlackBerry through which he communicated with Mansoor Ijaz, the right wing political parties and military circles instantly accused him of lying, even though cell phones are routinely lost and replaced. For the sake of their credibility, these same political actors should now speak out even more loudly for the recovery of the lost reports. For the reports to be permanently lost would show just how little respect these groups have for the independence and work of the Supreme Court.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 25th, 2012.