Startling revelations have been made in the Asghar Khan case but damning evidence will have to wait.
The attorney-general failed to produce the required inquiry reports during Friday’s hearing at the Supreme Court, saying he was not aware of their whereabouts.
At the previous hearing of the case – against the alleged role of intelligence agencies in rigging the 1990 elections – the court had asked the attorney-general to produce inquiry commissions’ reports on Habib Bank and Mehran Bank.
The court had also asked the attorney general to seek instructions from the government if these reports should be made public.
At Friday’s hearing, however, Attorney General Maulvi Anwarul Haq said he was not aware of the reports’ whereabouts.
Justice Khilji Arif Hussain said it seems that quarters concerned are deliberately hiding these reports.
“I will not agree with the court on this,” Haq said.
The reports are of ‘very important’ nature and it is the court’s right to go through them, Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry said. “If you are not ready to hand over these reports to us, why is such a futile exercise being carried out by the court,” he added.
Who had issued the notifications for commissions to probe these scams, asked the chief justice.
The law ministry, the federation’s attorney replied.
The notification for Mehran Bank’s inquiry commission was issued on June 17, 1994, and the notification for Habib Bank’s commission was issued on January 11, 1996 by the law ministry, he added.
The reports must go back to the authority that issued the notification, the chief justice said. The bench ordered the attorney general, the law ministry and the law division to produce the reports at the next hearing on March 23, and sought replies from the federal government.
If the reports have disappeared, there is a legal way to cure this error, the chief justice said, adding that the Federal Investigation Agency can be ordered to look into the matter, find the reports in search operations and file cases against officials responsible.
IB’s role in 2009
The focus of Friday’s hearing, however, was the Intelligence Bureau’s (IB) alleged interference in the Punjab in the lead-up to and during the eventual imposition of governor’s rule in 2009.
The attorney-general requested for an in-camera hearing for briefing on IB’s role but did not submit any written reply. The Express Tribune’s reporter and executive editor were also told that they would be served notices in relation to a story published on March 14, 2012 which disclosed that the current government withdrew Rs270 million from IB’s fund, allegedly for pushing its political agenda.
Defending his stance, the paper’s correspondent submitted documentary evidence before the court.
Noting the paper’s credibility, the court made the documents part of the record.
If a statement is not rejected by the accused, it is considered to be true, the bench said. The IB has not denied the accusations as yet, it added.
The reporter, Asad Kharal, informed the court that the amount was withdrawn before the imposition of governor’s rule, in 2008, during the tenure of then-DG IB Tariq Lodhi.
IB Director-General Aftab Sultan also appeared before the court and said that he could not verify the news report from the record.
In response to the court’s concern, he said that a record keeper was not available and after going through the record he will inform the court about the details, in-camera.
After going through the audit report and relevant regulations of IB to utilise the funds, the court will examine circumstances in which such a large amount was withdrawn from the agency’s secret account.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 31st, 2012.