–CJP asks AGP about govt’s plan to recover money used to rig 1990 general elections, to hear case on June 6
–Seals report of federal cabinet’s meeting on AGP’s request that it be kept confidential
LAHORE: The Supreme Court (SC) on Saturday issued notices to 21 people, including former army generals and senior political leaders, connected to the Asghar Khan case.
The 21 individuals include deposed prime minister Nawaz Sharif, Javed Hashmi and Abida Hussain, and former army chief General (r) Mirza Aslam Beg and former director general of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Lt Gen (r) Asad Durrani. The court has also summoned officials of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) and Federal Investigation Agency (FIA).
Hearing the Asghar Khan case at the SC’s Lahore Registry, Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Mian Saqib Nisar asked Attorney General of Pakistan (AGP) Ashtar Ausaf if the federal cabinet had decided to implement the court’s verdict issued in the case in 2012. The AGP responded that the former government had decided to act upon the court’s decision and had directed the FIA to continue the investigation.
The CJP also asked Ashtar how the federal cabinet planned to recover the money that had been spent on manipulating the general elections in 1990. Ashtar, however, did not give a specific answer and requested the CJP to seal the report of the cabinet meeting that he had submitted to the court as it was confidential. Justice Nisar granted this request.
In 2012, the apex court had ordered the federal government to take necessary legal action against Gen (r) Beg and Lt Gen (r) Durrani for their role in ‘facilitating’ a group of politicians and political parties to ensure their success in the 1990 elections, by paying them millions of rupees.
The hearing of the case was adjourned until June 6.
At the last hearing on Friday, the CJP said that the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government ‘ran away’ from its responsibility to come up with a plan of action against former army generals accused of manipulating the 1990 elections, by leaving the Asghar Khan case matter into the hands of a sub-committee.
Nisar questioned the deputy attorney general (DAG) about the cabinet’s decision on the case to which he was told that the matter would be briefed upon by Attorney General of Pakistan (AGP) Ashtar Ausaf Ali. However, Ashtar was absent from court.
“This is such an important case and the attorney general is least bothered. This the performance of the attorney general’s office,” a visibly irritated CJP said, as he summoned the AGP to appear in court on June 2.
Earlier on May 31, the CJP had expressed similar dislike over the federal government’s failure to make a breakthrough in the Asghar Khan case.
“Why hasn’t the federal cabinet done anything regarding the Asghar Khan case verdict?” Chief Justice Nisar asked, adding that he could not comprehend the government’s nonchalance towards such a serious case.
Nisar had further said that the court after giving its order on the case had rejected review petitions of Gen Beg and Lt Gen Durrani. “Now, the implementation of the verdict remains. To-date the federal government did not do anything,” he lamented.
On October 19, 2012, the apex court had issued a 141-page verdict, ordering legal proceedings against Gen (r) Beg and retired Lt Gen Durrani in a case filed 16 years ago by former air chief Air Marshal Asghar Khan.
Khan, who passed away in January this year, is being represented in the Supreme Court (SC) by Advocate Salman Akram Raja.
Khan had petitioned the SC in 1996 alleging that the two senior army officers and the then-president Ghulam Ishaq Khan had doled out Rs140 million among several politicians ahead of the 1990 polls to ensure Benazir Bhutto’s defeat in the polls.
The Islamic Jamhoori Ittehad (IJI), consisting of nine parties including the Pakistan Muslim League (PML), National Peoples Party (NPP) and Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), had won the 1990 elections, with Nawaz Sharif being elected prime minister. The alliance had been formed to oppose the Benazir Bhutto-led Pakistan People’s Party (PPP).
In 1996, Khan had written a letter to the then SC chief justice Nasim Hassan Shah naming Beg, Durrani and ex-Habib Bank Sindh chief and Mehran Bank owner Younis Habib about the unlawful disbursement of public money and its misuse for political purposes.
The 2012 apex court judgement, authored by the then-chief justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Chaudhry, had directed the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) to initiate a transparent investigation and subsequent trial if sufficient evidence is found against the former army officers.
That investigation is yet to conclude.
In May 2017, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) had said it would approach the SC over the FIA’s failure to follow through on the apex court’s order in the case.