–CJP says another institution can continue the probe if FIA wants to bail out
ISLAMABAD: Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Mian Saqib Nisar on Friday said that Pakistani military is not exempt from the Supreme Court’s jurisdiction, as the court decided not to close the Asghar Khan case while rejecting the Federal Investigation Agency’s (FIA) recommendation.
Last week, FIA had requested the apex court to close the Asghar Khan case related to the alleged distribution of Rs140 million among politicians, including former premier Nawaz Sharif by the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) to manipulate the 1990 general elections and ensure late Benazir Bhutto’s defeat.
As a two-member bench headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Mian Saqib Nisar heard the case, the court summoned the defence secretary for an explanation of the action taken against former military generals allegedly charged with the embezzlement.
The chief justice questioned, “how could the apex court’s judgement just be ignored”. Ordering further probe into the case, the apex judge claimed that FIA seems to be backing out when it is time to implement orders. We will summon a response from FIA and the cabinet in this matter, he said.
He appointed Advocate Salman Akram Raja to assist the court.
When Justice Nisar recalled that it has been suggested that “certain individuals” are removed from the case, Raja responded that it was indefensible as “a man has conceded that he ‘has distributed the money’”.
Then, the chief justice stressed that the court “will not let Asghar Khan’s efforts go to waste”.
Moreover, he said that “another institution can continue the probe” if it is outside the mandate of FIA, as the investigative body had not even taken the late air marshal’s family into confidence on its recommendation to close the case.
He recalled that former chief justice Iftikhar Chaudhry had met him after announcing the verdict, and he had lauded him for announcing “such a massive verdict that if the court now does nothing more, even that was enough”.
Upon this, Raja commented that both the Asghar Khan and Asia Bibi case verdicts are historical.
He added that the case is being tried in both military and civilian courts, which makes it difficult to reach a “final conclusion”. “The involved army officers are being tried by a military court as the cabinet had indicated. While there is a separate trial against civilians,” he stated.
Hence, he asserted, a response should be sought from the military on what action they’ve taken so far.
‘ARMY WITHIN JURISDICTION’:
At this, Justice Nisar claimed that “military is not exempt from this court’s jurisdiction and as chief justice, I would like to tell them that all this is within our jurisdiction.”
The apex court then sent a notice to the defence secretary, seeking a report on the progress of the trial against military officials within one week. The bench also sought a reply from the FIA in the petition submitted by Asghar Khan’s family.
The hearing was then adjourned till January 25.
On Thursday, Khan’s wife Amina Asghar Khan, his daughters Nasreen Ahmed Khattak and Sheereen Awan, and son Ali opposed the FIA’s suggestion and highlighted what they perceived to be halfhearted efforts of the authorities.
The family also sought the conclusion of the trial against the military personnel involved and the placement of the result of the trial before the people of Pakistan.
On Dec 29, 2018, the FIA had suggested that the apex court close the case relating to the implementation of the Asghar Khan verdict for want of concrete evidence. A report furnished before the court by the FIA stated that the authorities did not have enough evidence to launch a criminal prosecution against the individuals named in the judgement.
According to the FIA report, 18 politicians in their statements submitted in the SC denied receiving the funds to allegedly manipulate the 1990 polls.
The agency contended that the statements of witnesses recorded in the case so far had gaps and did not correlate with each other. Moreover, the investigation agency has also remained unsuccessful in securing financial records from the relevant banks since the matter is 24 years old.