The Supreme Court expressed concern on Wednesday over the conduct of political parties named in Air Marshal Asghar Khan’s petition, observing that they had not appeared before the court to rebut allegations levelled against them.
The political parties in question had allegedly received money from the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) in a bid to influence the 1990s elections and prevent the Pakistan Peoples Party from winning.
Heading a three-member bench, Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry observed that, except for the Jamaat-e-Islami, no other political party has had the courage to face the court and only give statements outside it.
During the proceedings, the apex court gave another chance to the Pakistan Peoples Party-led government to trace missing inquiry reports regarding Mehran Bank and Habib Bank.
The court observed that the names of some shurfas (gentlemen) also surfaced in the Mehran Bank report, which, it added, was being kept secret.
Newly-appointed Attorney General of Pakistan Irfan Qadir informed the court that, in pursuance of the court’s March 30 order, he had convened a meeting with the interior minister. However, he added, the inquiry reports have not been found and are not available with the interior ministry, except for the one based on the memory of Interior Minister Rehman Malik, who was the then Federal Investigation Agency director.
Malik’s report held former chief of Mehran Bank Younis Habib and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) chief Nawaz Sharif responsible for the lapse of Mehran Bank.
The chief justice, however, pointed out that such a report is not acceptable under the law. Qadir assured the court that he was trying his level best and that all efforts shall be made to trace the reports in the interior as well as the law ministry.
Counsel for Asghar Khan Salman Akram Raja, meanwhile, told the court that there was sufficient material apart from the bank reports to proceed in the case.
He also drew the court’s attention towards a statement of former interior minister Naseerullah Babar that receipts of those among which the money was distributed is available in the record.
Raja also told the court that Hamid Mir of Geo TV had contacted and informed him that he possesses a copy of the said reports. He stated that he could request Mir to place the reports on record, which the court allowed.
During proceedings, Chief Justice Chaudhy said that the court will determine whether the scam was an individual act of former army chief Gen (retd) Mirza Aslam Beg or an act of the army as an institution.
However, he made it a point to express his appreciation of the Pakistan Army as an institution and said that army chief Gen Parvez Kayani would not dare derail the democratic process.
“We have undertaken some deliberations whereof it transpired that Gen (retd) Mirza Aslam Beg in his concise statement had also taken the position of possessing knowledge about the distribution of this amount and maintaining the account by the ISI,” the court stated.
“Inter alia, in the concise statement, one of the factors also finds mentioned to the effect that full account was maintained qua all the payments made by the then Director General, ISI and no amount was misappropriated or misused.”
The court order further directed Muhammad Akram Sheikh, appearing for Gen (retd) Beg, to furnish the details of the account before the next date of hearing.
Meanwhile, Additional Prosecutor General of the National Accountability Bureau Mazhar Ali Chaudhry stated that they needed two to three more days to submit information on a case involving Younis Habib.
IB secret funds
In compliance of earlier orders, Assistant Director (Legal) Intelligence Bureau Naveed Noor placed a sealed cover containing the bureau’s accounts from 2008-2009 on record.
It was earlier reported that, in 2009, an amount of Rs270 million was taken out from the IB’s account for the purpose of influencing the political situation of Punjab. “The report has been de-sealed for our eyes and is again directed to be sealed and kept on record in safe custody,” the court said.
However, after going through the report, the Intelligence Bureau director-general was made party and directed to file a concise statement regarding the allegations.
The hearing was adjourned till May 10, 2012, after the attorney general asked for time to carry out the court’s directions to trace the missing reports.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 26th, 2012.