Beg, Durrani face legal action
By: Nasir Iqbal
ISLAMABAD: The PPP finally stands vindicated after a long wait of 16 years. The Supreme Court ruled on Friday that the 1990 general elections had been polluted by dishing out Rs140 million to a particular group of politicians only to deprive the people of being represented by their chosen representatives.
Thus the court threw the ball back to the government’s court by directing it to take necessary action under the Constitution and law against former army chief Gen (retd) Aslam Beg and former director general of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Lt-Gen (retd) Asad Durrani for their role in facilitating a group of politicians and political parties to ensure their success against their rivals in the 1990 elections.
Authored by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, who headed a three-judge bench, the short order disposed of the petition of Tehrik-i-Istaqlal chief Air Marshal (retd) Asghar Khan who had accused the ISI of financing the politicians in the 1990s.
The petition was based on an affidavit of Gen Asad Durrani. The detailed verdict will be issued later. Both Gen Beg and Gen Durrani were not present in the thinly-attended courtroom at the time of the announcement of the judgment.
In the words of Salman Akram Raja, the counsel for Asghar Khan, the order to take action under the Constitution means invoking Article 6 which asks for the trial of an accused on charges of high treason.
He said that in the order, which is being billed as a verdict that may change the course of country’s political history; the apex court had mentioned the breach of Article 17 of the Constitution which ensured the right of association.
But Advocate Chaudhry Faisal Hussain was of the opinion that only the detailed judgment would elaborate how the two generals should be dealt with. They could be restored to active military service to formally face court martial proceedings under the
Army Act as was done in the NLC case in which three generals had been reinstated to face charges, he added.
When asked how the military would implement the verdict, Maj-Gen Asim Bajwa, Director General of the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), said it would be too early to react without waiting for the detailed judgment.
But at the same time he brushed aside a perception that any political cell ever existed in the ISI and said whatever Gen Beg and Gen Durrani had done were acts of individuals.
The judgment directed the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) to initiate legal proceedings against the politicians who had allegedly received donations during the 1990 elections. The FIA is required to hold a transparent investigation and if sufficient evidence is found against the politicians they would face criminal trial.
Former chief executive of Habib Bank Ltd and of now defunct Mehran Bank Younas Habib who provided the funds will also be dealt with in the same fashion.
According to Gen Durrani’s affidavit, former prime minister Nawaz Sharif was given Rs3.5 million, Mir Afzal Khan Rs10 million, Lt-Gen Rafaqat Rs5.6 million for distribution among journalists, Abida Hussain Rs1 million, Jamaat-i-Islami Rs5 million, Altaf Hussain Qureshi Rs500,000, Ghulam Mustafa Jatoi Rs5 million, Jam Sadiq Rs5 million, Junejo Rs250,000, Pir Pagara Rs2 million, Maulana Salahuddin Rs300,000, Humayun Marri (Nawab Bugti’s son-in-law) Rs1.5 million, Jamali Rs4 million, Kakar Rs1 million, K. Baloch Rs0.5 million, Jam Yousuf Rs0.75 million, Bizenjo Rs0.5 million and Nader Mengal Rs1 million.
They will face investigation by the FIA.
The names of Meraj Khalid who received Rs500,000, Hafeez Pirzada (Rs2 million), Mustafa Khar (Rs2 million) and Sarwar Cheema (Rs500,000) also surfaced during the proceedings. Their names were mentioned in a letter sent by Gen Durrani to then prime minister Benazir Bhutto.
Except for Jamaat-i-Islami, no-one came forward to deny the allegations.
“I believe the Supreme Court has reposed confidence in the interior minister because the FIA functions under his ministry,” Attorney General Irfan Qadir said, adding that after the judgment the quarters concerned would be activated.
“Civil proceedings shall also be launched against these persons for the recovery of sums from them with profit,” the order said.
The court also ordered that any election cell or political cell if existed in the presidency or the ISI or the Military Intelligence (MI) or within their formation be abolished immediately and any letter/notification to the extent to creating any such cell/department, by any name whatsoever, shall stand cancelled forthwith.
It observed that late president Ghulam Ishaq Khan, Gen Beg and Gen Durrani had brought a bad name to Pakistan, its armed forces and secret agencies in the eyes of the nation.
Out of Rs140 million which Younas Habib donated, only Rs60 million was distributed among the politicians while the remaining Rs80 million was deposited in the account 313 titled Survey and Construction Group of Karachi maintained by the MI.
The court ordered the transfer of the amount with profit to the HBL and if the liability of the bank had been adjusted the money be deposited in the treasury account of the government.
Role of ISI, MI
“ISI or MI may perform their duties to safeguard the borders or to provide civil aid to the federal government, but they have no role to play in political activities/politics to form or destabilise political governments. Nor can they facilitate or favour a group of political parties or politicians individually, in any manner, which may lead to his or their success.
“The armed forces, under the directions of the federal government, defend Pakistan against external aggression or threat of war and to act in aid of civil power when called upon to do so under Article 245 of the Constitution. Thus any extra-constitutional act, calls for action in accordance with the Constitution and the law against the officers/officials of armed forces without any discrimination,” the order said.
It, however, acknowledged the sacrifices rendered by the armed forces for the country to defend any external or internal aggression for which it being an institution is deeply respected by the nation.
“ISI, MI or any other agency like IB has no role to play in the political affairs of the country such as formation or destabilisation of government, or interfere in the holding of honest, free and fair elections. Involvement of the officers/members of the secret agencies in unlawful activities, individually or collectively calls for strict action being, violative of oath of their offices, and if involved, they are liable to be dealt with under the Constitution and the law,” the order said.
The court also observed that the president in a parliamentary system and being head of the state represented the unity of the republic and as per the oath of his office in all circumstances he would do right to all manner of people, according to law, without fear or favour, affection or ill-will. “Thus, holder of office of president violates the Constitution if he fails to treat all manner of people equally and without favouring any set, according to the law.”