A three-member Supreme Court bench on Monday turned down a petitioner’s plea to reveal the name of officials involved in rigging the 1990 election while hearing the petition of Tehrik-i-Istiqlal’s chief Asghar Khan.
The decision was taken while hearing the case regarding allegations of the Inter-Services Intelligence’s (ISI) financing of politicians in the 1990 election by the SC bench headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry.
On Monday, former chief of ISI Lt Gen (retd) Assad Durrani revealed before the court that a breakthrough in the case was unlikely since there was no record or concrete evidence of the money distributed to political parties.
Attorney General Irfan Qadir informed the court that he was unable to locate the notification under which a political cell was created in the ISI. In its written order, the court directed the attorney general to coordinate with the newly-appointed defence secretary to produce the notification before the court.
Salman Akram Raja, the counsel for Asghar Khan, told the court that there was in fact no formal notification for the establishment of the political cell, saying it was created on verbal orders. However, the court presented a sealed envelope submitted by the attorney general, which contained a summary that was sent to then prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto for the creation of a political cell in the ISI.
Akram Shaikh, the counsel for Mirza Aslam Beg, told the court that former cabinet secretary Hassan Raza Pasha had shown the notification to a Supreme Court bench in 1997 when Lt Gen (retd) Iftikhar Ali Khan was the defence secretary.
During the hearing, Chief Justice Chaudhry also returned documents earlier submitted by Durrani, saying that there was nothing substantive in the coded documents.
“Durrani we appreciate your uprightness but tell us why you are claiming confidentiality for these documents, while the bench wants openness,” the chief justice said.
The chief justice also asked Durrani to make public the list of those officers, who took part in the money distribution operation of the ISI and present a breakdown of recipients. However, Durani said he had no supportive documents which could prove his claims. The court observed that if there were no substantive documents, the recipients could not be held responsible.
Justice Jawwad S Khawaja asked whether there was any statute to keep the information secret or classified, saying that Pakistan is among the five, six countries of the world where freedom of information is ensured by the Constitution under Article 19A.
Durrani replied that it was against the culture of intelligence agencies to reveal names, adding that the documents were only for the court’s eyes.
“People will not trust us in the future if we disclose names in such a way,” Durrani said.
Salman Raja also requested the bench to disclose the name of officers, who had given money among politicians but the court turned down his plea.
Durrani accepted his responsibility in the money distribution case, but said the operation was carried out through a “chain of command”, which meant directions flowed from the army chief and the president of the country.
The hearing of the case was adjourned for four weeks.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 31st, 2012.