ISLAMABAD: Despite “weak memories,” a lot of old ghosts resurfaced at the Supreme Court on Thursday – a day that also saw the central protagonist of the ‘Mehrangate affair’ admit the scandal, and apologise to the court.
While the court awaits the complete record of Air Marshal (retd) Asghar Khan’s petition, the key players of the scandal appeared before the court – and, for perhaps the first time since its reopening, a sense of urgency has engulfed the case of the 1990 election rigging saga.
Khan’s petition, first filed some 16 years ago, alleges that the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) rigged the 1990 general elections by distributing millions of rupees among several politicians to damage Benazir Bhutto’s election campaign. The apex court recently reopened the case, which had been pending in the Sindh High Court since before the turn of the century – with a three-member bench, headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, now hearing the case.
Reviving the urgency
Thursday saw Younis Habib, a central protagonist of the scandal and the former chief of the Mehran Bank, appear before the bench on a wheelchair and submit a three-page statement, which he read out to the court.
After his revelations, Habib tendered an unconditional apology for his deeds, saying that he was used by former army chief Mirza Aslam Baig and former president Ghulam Ishaq Khan and subsequently jailed for four years.
He further revealed that, due to pressure from the “higher-ups”, he arranged for Rs1.48 billion out of which Rs140 million were distributed among political parties while the rest were invested in army welfare schemes and transferred to account numbers provided by ISI officials on the directives of Baig.
Habib revealed that Rs150 million was provided to Jam Sadiq for the establishment of the Mehran Bank. He said all the embezzlements were named the “Mehrangate Scandal”, although the money was actually drawn from Habib Bank Limited.
To a query from the court, Habib said he could not recall the details of the distributed money. “I am sick now and my memory is weak,” Habib told the bench.
Assad Durrani’s account
Also playing the ‘weak memory card’, then ISI chief Gen Assad Durrani also said he could not recall whether he was cross-examined by the court earlier or not.
“The available record indicates that you were cross-examined by the court during an in-camera hearing 13 years ago,” the chief justice said.
However, Durrani told the court that ISI was not involved in this case and it was his individual doing. In reply, the chief Justice said: “It is not for you to decide. We will fix responsibility and decide this matter after hearing the entire case.”
While keeping in mind Durrani’s affidavit and a letter written to former prime minister Bhutto in this regard, the chief justice directed Durrani to appear in the court on Friday with full preparation.
The court also questioned Habib regarding Interior Minister Rehman Malik interrogating him as an FIA official back then. Habib told the media that a CD was in possession of Malik that could provide complete details of this episode.
A photograph was also included in Habib’s record wherein he was shown to be one of the persons along with then president Ghulam Ishaq Khan and officers of Pakistan Army with Mirza Aslam Baig, former chief of army staff.
The court directed the Ministry of Defence to file the requisite reports pertaining to the 1990 elections as well as up-to-date reports on the “workings of security and intelligence agencies”.
“In the interest of the nation, these documents shall be kept confidential,” the written order of the court read.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 9th, 2012.