It was a tremendous ruling
On October 19, 2012, exactly three years ago, the Supreme Court (SC) of Pakistan handed down the verdict of the century in the famous Asghar Khan case. An epoch-making ruling it was in every manner and fully eventful it must become by being carried to its logical conclusion in line with the roadmap the apex court laid down in its order for execution. No laxity should be admissible on this count. Civilian dictatorship, Bonapartism and praetorian political adventurism legitimised by the courts and politicians that joined the bandwagon have indeed been the bane of this nation ever since its inception, which should be put paid to now for good. The SC had ordered legal proceedings against the former head of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) General (retd) Asad Durrani and former army chief General (Retd) Aslam Baig.
Air Marshal (retd) Asghar Khan, the petitioner in the case, had alleged that the country’s premier intelligence agency, the ISI, had distributed Rs 140 million among politicians in the 1990 elections to form the Islami Jamhoori Ittehad (IJI) and prevent the PPP of Benazir Bhutto from winning the polls. In November 2012, the former army chief, General (retd) Aslam Baig, had filed a review petition against the SC’s verdict in the Asghar Khan case praying that it should be declared as void. The review petition, filed by Barrister Syed Ali Zafar on behalf of the former army chief, had stated that Aslam Baig was not involved in the process of distribution of cash amongst politicians and that the orders of the president were directly implemented by former ISI chief Asad Durrani.
The complexities of the case are hindering the process to bring it to its logical conclusion. Prime Minister (PM) Nawaz Sharif is also among the alleged recipients of the money but he has vehemently refuted the allegation. The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) recorded the statement of the PM three years after the announcement of the decision by the apex court, which spoke volumes about the performance of this agency. Since the recipients of the ISI funds were not willing to join the investigation, some of them were approached in their homes. Sources in the FIA said progress in the case was stopped for the reason that two retired military officers had filed a review petition against the SC decision. Investigation could not go ahead unless the review petition was decided, the FIA office said.
The FIA has recorded the statements of more than half of those named in the Asghar Khan case and it is likely to complete its investigation by the end of this year. The SC had ruled that “the general election held in the year 1990 was subjected to corruption and corrupt practices”. Moreover, “It has been established that an ‘election cell’ had been created in the presidency, which was functioning to provide financial assistance to the favoured candidates, or a group of political parties to achieve the desired result by polluting the election process and to deprive the people of Pakistan from being represented by their chosen representatives.” The apex court said that the late Ghulam Ishaq Khan, retired General Aslam Baig and retired General Asad Durrani acted in violation of the Constitution.
The apex court ordered the government to take legal action against the former retired generals as well as against Younus Habib, the former president of the now defunct Mehran Bank. Of course, the Constitution forbids the military from meddling in politics and so does the law. But it is equally important that politicians too should not become part of their political engineering works. Imagine for a moment, would there have been an IJI had no politicians fallen for the bait of the generals engaged in the cobbling of this entity to influence the 1990 election against the PPP? Indisputably, it would have not been. Nobody put a gun to their heads and bullied them into this adventurist contrivance of the establishment. Some politicians were out there to hop on to the IJI bandwagon willingly and volitionally.
If indeed a politician is so weak-willed as to easily succumb to any coercive pressures, he verily is not fit to be a leader. And if he gets tempted or enticed by the allurements of pelf and power, he is bereft of even the probity and integrity that are the essentials of a true leader. But if our chequered history is replete with Bonapartist and praetorial adventurisms, is it not blemished with the ignoble fall of politicians as well? How often have they joined hands with the incoming military rulers to give a civilian face to their regimes? They celebrated joyously when their political adversaries’ governments were sacked by authoritative presidents. Even now it is not uncommon to hear the taunts as to why they are sitting idly by while the country is going to the dogs.
It was not rare either that those abusing and vilifying the military in the sunshine of the day felt no qualms in meeting the people in the garrisons in the thick darkness of night. How can adventurism come to an end if some malleable personages are always out to sell their souls for the shine of lucre and office? So disgusting it really is that some of the eminences allegedly involved in the IJI project and who took money were no paupers. The FIA must prove true to the trust the honorable court has reposed in it by conducting an honest, transparent and credible investigation against the politicians who allegedly took money from the IJI’s founders. Nobody will buy the logic that since generals have admitted having distributed the funds to the politicians, they should only be indicted.