While it remains to be seen how far the legal retribution will go, the government pledged on Saturday that it will try two retired generals found guilty of rigging the 1990 general elections.
According to Federal Information Minister and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Information Secretary Qamar Zaman Kaira, the government would do this in compliance with the Supreme Court’s (SC) ruling on the Asghar Khan petition.
Asked if the government will institute the process of high treason against the retired generals under Article 6, Kaira responded in the affirmative.
While talking to representatives of the print media outside the Punjab Governor House on Saturday, Kaira said the government is also creating a joint investigation team (JIT) to probe all those politicians suspected of receiving money from the intelligence agencies in the lead up to the 1990 polls.
The majority of the team will be comprised of officials from the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA).
“The JIT will investigate the politicians mentioned [as recipients] in the affidavits [submitted before the court],” he said. Kaira added that the SC has directed the government to investigate individuals whose names surfaced during the case proceedings. Asked whether the JIT will probe all the money distributed by Yunus Habib between 1988 and 1994, he replied the court ruling restricted it to investigate the funds used to rig the 1990 elections.
Responding to a question over what implications the SC ruling had for the Presidency, he declined to comment saying he would not want to increase ‘bitterness’ between the two institutions in light of PPP’s reconciliation policy. He maintained, however, that the president’s office was a political one since he was an elected official.
“Like the speaker of any house, the president belongs to a political party. His conduct, however, should be neutral and impartial,” Kaira said.
He also claimed that the ruling had reiterated his party’s stance that they have been at the receiving end of injustice at every election. Asked what PPP will do as the ruling has indirectly termed Nawaz Sharif’s term following the 1990 elections illegal, he replied the government is contemplating how to provide that tenure a legal blanket.
Kaira defended prior PPP governments’ decisions to appoint one principal culprit behind the rigging – Lt-Gen Asad Durrani – as an ambassador to Germany and give the other – Gen Mirza Aslam Beg – an award. He maintained the award was presented to the Pakistan Army rather than Gen Beg in an individual capacity. At the same time, he said, Durrani was appointed because he fulfilled the technocratic criteria for the position. He expressed astonishment at statements by senior Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz leaders such as Senator Pervez Rashid over these issues and asked the opposition party to refrain from such measures.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 21st, 2012.