Asghar Khan case: SC hints at proceeding without Commission reports

Published: June 5, 2012

Court seeks newspaper records from 1990s for clues on the scams. PHOTO: AFP/FILE

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Monday hinted that it would proceed in the Mehran and Habib Bank scam of 1990 in accordance with law, even if the inquiry reports of two separate commissions inquiring into the matter were not made available.

Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry observed during proceedings on Monday, that if the inquiry reports were made available, then it was good, otherwise, the bench would undertake the exercise in accordance with law.

A three-Judge bench headed by the Chief Justice himself, resumed hearing of the decades old petition moved by Air Marshal retired Asghar Khan in 1996, regarding the alleged distribution of funds by former chief of army staff Mirza Aslam Baig and ex-ISI chief Asad Durrani, among politicians during 1990 elections to keep away the PPP led by late chairperson Benazir Bhutto from coming into power.

Younus Habib, former head of Mehran Bank, had allegedly dished out Rs140 million on behalf of the agencies for this purpose. The petition was based on an affidavit of former ISI chief Lt. Gen (retd) Asad Durrani.

The bench, in its proceedings on Monday, once again asked for the record of two missing inquiry reports over Mehran and Habib banks scam during 1994-96 and granted time to Attorney General for Pakistan Irfan Qadir to continue his efforts in tracing out the reports upon his request.

Qadir apprised the bench that with regard to Mehran bank scam, Fakhruddin G. Ebrahim had handed over original report to Shahid Hamid, the then defence minister. The AG said they had written a letter to him, and were still awaiting his reply.

While in Habib bank scam, they had written a letter to justice retired Muhammad Ilyas, who headed the inquiry commission. He too had not given any response so far.

Qadir said that if the government wanted at that time to abandon the Commission it could have issued a notification but in this case, it was not done.

Makhdoom Ali Khan, counsel for the president HBL and Mansoor Siddique, an official of State Bank of Pakistan on behalf of governor State Bank of Pakistan also submitted certain documents regarding the bank accounts.

Justice Jawwad S. Khawwaja remarked that there must be something in the newspapers of that period as a significant thing had happened.

He said, however, in the report submitted by HBL about 15 bank accounts being identified, could be helpful.

Attorney General Qadir apprised the bench that the inquiry into these two reports revealed that these were not available for the time being. To a bench’s query, he replied that a notification of 1975 was not available.

Salman Akram Raja, counsel for Asghar Khan, apprised the bench that the court could proceed in the matter in the presence of certain documents.

Further hearing was adjourned till June 18.

Meticulous distribution network

The report submitted by HBL contained a letter written by KR Chagla, then executive vice president and company secretary to secretary Commission of Inquiry (Mehran bank Ltd and HBL Ltd) Supreme Court building Islamabad on July 17, 1974 stating that the bank had conducted inquiries into newspapers reports saying that Younus Habib, the main accused in the scam, paid a sum of Rs140 million to general retired Mirza Aslam Baig, the concerned managers of three branches and other staff confirmed withdrawals and deposits as per their findings.

It said that Habib, who was entrusted with parking of bank’s advances at various banks/DFIs, had grossly breached the trust reposed in him by the head office.

He generated funds through parking finance to create credit balances in different accounts and subsequently legally allowed withdrawal through cash payment cheques drawn on 15 accounts, it said.

The report further said the amounts, totalling Rs140.475 million, were withdrawn through cash cheques from these accounts on various dates between June 16, 1990 to October 22, 1990 and these were deposited in six different bank branches in Karachi.

The report also contained affidavits of some of subordinates of Habib who were assigned the tasks of depositing and withdrawing cash through cheques from various bank branches while some among them had admitted frequent meetings and telephone calls between Habib and General (retd) Aslam Baig.

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