It has been 16 years since the Mehrangate scam, involving the distribution of millions of rupees to politicians by the agencies and the military took place. The purpose of course, was to rig the 1990 election and keep the PPP out of power. Many years may have passed, but the echoes from that episode still ring out, offering a bleak reminder of how ‘democracy’ has been manipulated. The ‘powers’ who believe that they have the right to dictate every event, have not been entirely tamed. It is when the truth comes out that an effort can be made to change things and so, now is the time to hold accountable those who thought they were above the law.
The truth though is an ugly one; it is in some way frightening to even contemplate it. As court hearings continue, crucial players in the scam have begun to tell the court their stories. Even though they claim ‘dim memories’, the tales they tell confirm rumours that have floated for years. Younis Habib, the then head of Mehran Bank — which later collapsed — says he obtained Rs350 million and distributed Rs140 million from it into the accounts of politicians. The rest went to army welfare funds and other schemes. Jam Sadiq was given Rs 150 million to set up the bank, with the money obtained from Habib Bank Ltd to fund all these deeds. Asad Durrani, the then head of the ISI who had orchestrated events, confirmed what had happened, while the court also heard of the involvement of General (retd) Mirza Aslam Beg and then president Ghulam Ishaq Khan in the sordid affair. Even though the key players who appeared before the court said they could, after so many years, recall only the broad details, what we see unfold before us is a horror story. The fact also is that such misdeeds continue today. If we are to function as a state with rules that conform to the Constitution, the forces engaged in such acts need to be controlled. One hopes that as the hearings go on, and other details come to light, some kind of action will be taken by parliament and the institutions involved, in particular, to ensure that such a misuse of public funds and of interference in politics is not repeated.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 10th, 2012.
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