- Late Asghar Khan’s petition lives again
The outstanding ex-air chief and, despite being a principled person or perhaps because of it, less successful in his later political career, died in January 2018 and was accorded a state funeral for building up the nascent Pakistan Air Force. But he also became famous for his human rights petition filed in 1996, concerning secret handouts of Rs140 million to leading anti-PPP politicians to influence outcome of the 1990 elections, by a nexus of then president of Pakistan and army chief. The accused former army chief and ISI head and the ‘bagman’ brigadier who actually made the payments and kept a detailed diary thereof, gave affirmative written statements or confessions regarding their respective roles, under orders, in the despicable affair. Despite the overwhelming weight of evidence, complete with financier Mehran Bank, the judgment was announced only in October 2016 and that too by former CJP Iftikar Chaudhry, perhaps as fast-tracked payback for his own bitter ‘Musharraf’ experiences. The concerned army chief Gen (rtd) Mirza Aslam Beg and ISI head Gen (rtd) Asad Durrani were severely reprimanded for violating the Constitution and for defaming Pakistan and their own institution, and federal government ordered to take legal proceedings against them.
And there the matter rested uncertainly until last week when the Federal Investigation Agency, which was tasked by the Supreme Court to gather hard evidence against the recipient politicians, 18 of whom deny the charges, suddenly threw up its hands and on its own requested late Asghar Khan’s heirs to assent to closure of the case, which the latter rightly indignantly refused. It is a matter of surprise and regret that in 24 years FIA failed to retrieve the requisite banking record, and hence on Friday’s case hearing, all those involved in non-implementation of the 2012 verdict came under sharp scrutiny of CJP Saqib Nisar. Ordering further investigation into payments made, the CJP dispelled the notion of military being beyond the court’s jurisdiction, while ordering the defence secretary to convey latest status of the two guilty officer’s case conducted in relative military court within a week. The dichotomy in separate civil-military investigations was also highlighted, and seemingly late Asghar Khan’s petition has now become his living legacy and a ‘hornet’s nest’.