Asghar Khan case: SC sets one-month deadline for action against army officers

Published: February 11, 2019
Air Marshal (R) Asghar Khan. FILE PHOTO

Air Marshal (R) Asghar Khan. FILE PHOTO

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Monday set a one-month deadline for the completion of any inquiry against Pakistan Army officers who distributed millions of rupees among politicians and public figures to manipulate the 1990 elections.

A three-member SC bench headed by Justice Gulzar Ahmed has given the Ministry of Defence four weeks to submit a reply regarding implementation of its 2012 verdict in the Asghar Khan case.

During the hearing, Justice Gulzar reprimanded the ministry for its failure to initiate court martial proceedings against the officers.

He said it seemed the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) had also lost interest in the case.

FIA seeks SC help in Asghar Khan case

The court ordered the defence ministry to ensure that its orders were implemented and due action was initiated against the military personnel.

In its reply, the ministry contended that the inquiry process was underway and that further action could not be taken till its completion.

The stance was seconded by the attorney general who, however, did concede that court-martial proceedings could be initiated at any point in cases where losses were inflicted upon the national exchequer.

Meanwhile, the SC also asked for details on Altaf Hussain’s role in the Asghar Khan case.

Justice Gulzar said the initial case mentioned Hussain and the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) as beneficiaries, and asked why there was no mention of either in the FIA’s report.

The hearing was adjourned after the court issued directives to the defence ministry to submit a reply in a month’s time.

The developments come after the FIA, on February 9, approached the SC for guidance in gathering sufficient evidence in the Asghar Khan case.

In its final report submitted in court, the FIA pointed out several reasons due to which the investigation could not reach a logical conclusion.

“The FIA has left no stone unturned to trace the evidence related to the disbursement of alleged money to politicians. All the important witnesses including Brig (R) Hamid Saeed were examined. Bank records were scrutinised and statements of concerned bank officers [were] recorded. Politicians were interviewed. Assistance and information from PEMRA, NAB and ministry of defence were sought. More than 190 television programmes were analysed. [The] Ministry of defence was contacted to provide information regarding the details required to find necessary evidence,” the agency maintained in its report after giving a detailed background of the probe.

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According to the FIA, one of the factors hindering the investigation was that “no army officer gave any statement of handing over money to any private person directly. Documents provided by Brig (R) Hamid Saeed show that money was distributed in Sindh, but the officers who actually distributed the money were not disclosed by him. Moreover, the receipts of receiving money by the politicians, as mentioned by Brig (R) Hamid Saeed, have not been provided to FIA. According to Brig (R) Hamid Saeed these receipts were sent to GHQ, but upon asking by FIA, General (R) Durrani denied having information of any such receipts”.

“The intelligence agency team responsible for distribution of funds in Punjab and elsewhere could not be ascertained despite FIA writing to M.O.D (ministry of defence) asking about whereabouts of intelligence agency personnel mentioned at para-9 of the Honourable Supreme Court’s judgement dated 19-10-2012,” said the FIA.

The agency also admitted that it had failed to verify the money trail. “Certain bank details have not been provided, which would complete the money trail required for prosecution purposes.”

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