We have confirmation of something we had all known or suspected for a very long time. The 1990 election in our country, which brought the PML-N to power for the first time at the centre was rigged, with the main part in this played by the military, the ISI and then-president the late Ghulam Ishaq Khan — in other words, the ‘establishment’. The three-member bench of the Supreme Court, which delivered the verdict on a 1996 petition filed by Air Marshal (retd) Asghar Khan, did not mince words in stating that as the plaintiff alleged money had been handed out through the Mehran Bank by the ISI, essentially to determine the outcome of the polls and to keep the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) out of power. The Court has ordered action under the law against then-COAS General Mirza Aslam Beg and the DG ISI at the time, Asad Durrani, for their illegal actions and hurled the ball into the government’s court by ordering it to initiate this process through the FIA.
It is encouraging that the prime minister has immediately stated that the Court’s orders will be implemented. The PPP has always spoken of the political cell set up in the presidency to fix the 1990 polls. Whether it is now truly able to manage the matter is something to be seen and, of course, in the Court verdict, there are also warnings for the future with the bench making it clear that the president of the country should not be involved in political events in any fashion. It has said precisely the same for the military. The question we need to ask is why it has taken so long for this verdict to be delivered. Asghar Khan put the evidence he had before the Court a full 16 years ago. It is strange that this was ignored; the case, after all, has striking repercussions for our democracy. For one, it establishes links between the agencies and particular parties. Secondly, it shows the extent to which forces will go to ‘manage’ election results. We have to find a way of ending this trend once and for all.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 21st, 2012.