Proceedings into air marshal (retd) Asghar Khan’s petition against alleged rigging in the 1990 elections by the Inter-Services Intelligence came to a halt when important documents were found missing in the official record of the Supreme Court.
Reacting to the surprising development, Suleman Akram Raja, the attorney for Khan, told The Express Tribune that military officials’
reputation would be damaged if the hearing of the case was not allowed to continue.
There seemed to be, however, a little respite for some others accused of being a part of the rigging. The name of a senior Supreme Court advocate – Abdul Hafeez Pirzada who was present in court – was also read out in the list of recipients.
However, during the hearing, Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, heading the three-member bench, expressed concern over the unavailability of the sealed records in the court.
The missing records, comprising statements recorded in 1998 by three crucial witnesses – former director-general of ISI Asad Durrani, former interior minister Naseerullah Babar and former army chief Gen Mirza Aslam Beg, are considered crucial evidence in the case.
The court directed its staff to trace the statements that were recorded in-camera, and produce them in the next hearing in a sealed envelope.
The court sought a sealed cover report on the workings of the ISI, including the money it hands out, as per an order sheet dated May 27, 1998, and asked for it to be submitted on March 8.
The court also sent a notice to key respondent Lt Gen Durrani for the second time and termed his presence in the court as vital to the case.
Former chief of Mehran Bank Younis Habib, who helped distribute the money, would also be summoned on next date of hearing if his address is traced by the petitioner.
Advocate Suleman asked the court to find Lt Gen Durrani’s new address, and added that the previous notice was not delivered as he had shifted.
During the hearing, Advocate Suleman pleaded that action should be initiated against both former army chief and ISI director general because they had breached the Constitution and damaged the trust of the nation.
Advocate Akram Sheikh, counsel for former army chief Gen Aslam Beg, pleaded for in-camera proceedings of the case because of the sensitivity of the case.
However, the chief justice turned down the plea and observed that it was an important case and the nation was keeping an eye on it. “Everything remains transparent and fair with open court proceedings,” he added.
According to legal experts, court martial of the involved military officials is also a possibility if their involvement in the rigging of elections against former premier Benazir Bhutto’s party was proved to be true.
Attorney General Maulvi Anwarul Haq informed the court that no one has contacted him on behalf of the defence ministry; however the court issued notice to the ministry to appear on the next hearing.
“A perusal of the record reveals that on June 25, 1998, a letter was addressed to the registrar of this court wherein it was mentioned that since MoD is the administrative Ministry of Directorate General ISI, which is a party in the subject petition and a representative of the MoD attends each hearing of the case, therefore, the MoD be informed about the dates of hearing as and when fixed,” the court’s written order stated.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 1st, 2012.