Asghar Khan Case should be taken to logical conclusion
According to reports, the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) has recommended the Supreme Court to close the case filed by late Air Marshal Asghar Khan in 1996 regarding distribution of Rs.140 million among several politicians for ensuring defeat of late Benazir Bhutto in the 1990 general elections. In its report submitted before the Supreme Court on Saturday, the FIA stated that due to lack of sufficient and solid evidence, the investigation in the matter could not continue. Similarly, it also contended that there are contradictions in the statements recorded by the witnesses. The FIA further submitted that as the matter is 25-year old hence no record of bank transactions could be found adding that politicians who were accused of taking money have also denied the allegations. On October 19, 2012, the apex court had issued a 141-page verdict, ordering legal proceedings against General (R) Aslam Beg and Lieutenant General (R) Asad Durrani.
The 2012, the apex court judgment, authored by then chief justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Chaudhry, had directed the FIA to initiate a transparent investigation and subsequent trial if sufficient evidence is found against the former army officers. A two-member bench of the apex court comprising Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Mian Saqib Nisar and Justice Ijazul Ahsen is taking up the case of Asghar Khan today (Monday). In the debate raging on the case, analysts and panelists are focusing only on the then President Ishaq Khan, then army chief Mirza Aslam Beg and then ISI chief Assad Durrani, whereas politicians deny having received lacs of rupees. Since there are no receipts on such payments, Supreme Court should ask politicians to take oath on Holy Qur’an that they did not receive directly or indirectly from Younus Habib who claimed to have made those payments.
October 2015 ruling was indeed an epoch-making ruling in every manner, and should have been carried to its logical conclusion in line with the roadmap the apex court laid down in its order for execution. No laxity should have been admissible on this count. Civilian dictatorship, Bonapartism and praetorian political adventurism legitimized by the court and politicians that joined the bandwagon have indeed been the bane of this nation ever since its inception. On 20th November 2012, former Army Chief General (retired) Aslam Beg had filed a review petition against the Supreme Court’s verdict in the Asghar Khan case praying that it should be declared as void. The review petition filed on behalf of the former army chief had stated that Aslam Beg was not involved in the process of distribution of cash amongst politicians, and that the orders of the president were directly implemented upon by former ISI chief Asad Durrani. Anyhow, the complexities of the case were hindering the process to bring it to the logical conclusion. Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was also among the alleged recipients of the money, but he had vehemently refuted the allegation. The FIA had recorded the statement of the prime minister three years after the announcement of the decision by the apex court, which spoke volumes about the performance of this agency. The recipients of the ISI funds were not willing to join investigation, though some of them were approached at their homes. Sources in the FIA had then said that progress in the case could not be made for the reason that two retired military officers had filed review petition against the Supreme Court decision. Investigation could not go ahead, unless the review petition was decided, the FIA office had then said. The apex court had ordered the government to take legal action against former retired generals as well as against Younus Habib, former president of the now defunct Mehran Bank. Of course, the Constitution forbids military not to meddle in politics and so does the law. But it is equally important that the 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 to the bait of the generals engaged in the cobbling up of this entity to influence the 1990 election against the PPP? Indisputably, it would have not been. Nobody put guns 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 because they were beneficiaries. Therefore, they should also be put in the dock.