The Supreme Court (SC) on Wednesday heard two former Intelligence Bureau (IB) heads explain the alleged misuse of the bureau’s secret funds by the Pakistan Peoples Party government during 1989 and again in 2008, and subsequently ordered both the IB and the Lahore High Court to furnish reports on the matter.
The three-member bench, headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry heard former IB chief Masood Sharif Khattak’s written reply to a story carried by The Express Tribune in November, which alleged that the bureau was allocated millions of rupees in secret service funds by the then PPP government to distribute among politicians in an effort to thwart a vote of no confidence in 1989.
In his reply, Khattak said that the former prime minister, Benazir Bhutto, was not assisted properly by the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and Military Intelligence (MI) at the time and therefore extra funds were allocated to the IB.
He added that this matter had already been settled in the Lahore High Court (LHC) 21 years ago.
“All allegations against Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto have undergone the judicial process and were settled more than two decades ago. I, therefore, ask the Supreme Court to disregard the allegations made by the reporter as things have already been settled,” said Khattak in his reply.
Khattak maintained that he had already revealed to the LHC in 1992 that these funds were indeed spent on “furthering national interest”.
“The purpose of that case was mala fide since the sole purpose was to seek the disqualification of Benazir Bhutto so that she would be eliminated from Pakistani politics,” he continued.
After hearing this, the SC directed its registrar to inquire the status of the case from LHC’s registrar and furnish a copy of the order.
In his reply, Khattak also claimed that at the time of the vote of no-confidence, then president Ghulam Ishaq Khan, with the full support of army chief General Mirza Aslam Beg, was working against the democratic government of Benazir Bhutto.
With the full backing of the former COAS Mirza Aslam Baig, he said, the former president, and the then Punjab government, Benazir Bhutto was reduced to the limits of the federal capital with no access to intelligence from military intelligence agencies, and thus was heavily dependent upon the IB for intelligence.
“In the changed circumstances, wherein the military oriented secret agencies were not reporting to the country’s civilian chief executive as extensively as they did to the military dictator (Ziaul Haq), the activation and rejuvenation of the Intelligence Bureau became inevitable and subsequently necessitated larger Secret Service Fund allocations for it,” he added.
Tariq Lodhi’s response rebuffed
Former IB director general Tariq Lodhi also appeared in response to a notice issued by the SC and submitted his reply. However, his reply was rejected and he was ordered to submit another detailed reply regarding the secret funds after reviewing the SC’s last order on the matter.
The court also told Lodhi that his successor Shoaib Suddle had already admitted that an amount of Rs400 million was withdrawn from the IB’s fund during 2008-09, but not with the purpose of toppling the Punjab government.
The chief justice advised Lodhi to contact his successor regarding confirmation of the matter.
Lodhi replied that he neither accepted nor denied the withdrawal of funds but he would share the information within his right. He requested more time for submitting a specific reply on the matter.
Accepting his plea, the court adjourned the hearing till February 8.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 7th, 2013.