The chal­lenge ahead

The Pak Banker - - Front Page -

AIR Mar­shal (r) As­ghar Khan waited 16 years for a judge­ment on the pe­ti­tion he filed in 1996 in the Supreme Court re­gard­ing the il­le­gal fund­ing of politi­cians in the 1990 elec­tions. Au­thored by Chief Jus­tice Iftikhar Muham­mad Chaudhry, the de­tailed ver­dict con­cluded the elec­tions were rigged against the PPP and that Pres­i­dent Ghu­lam Ishaq Khan, with the help of army chief Gen As­lam Beg and then-di­rec­tor gen­eral of MI (Mil­i­tary In­tel­li­gence), and later of the ISI, Gen Asad Dur­rani, had used army of­fi­cers to sup­port the "elec­tion cell" set up il­le­gally in the pres­i­dency.

This bold, land­mark judge­ment should serve notice on the coun­try's po­lit­i­cal class, the mil­i­tary and the bu­reau­cracy not to obey "un­law­ful com­mands," that the ac­tion by the two re­tired gen­er­als was in their per­sonal ca­pac­ity. "They par­tic­i­pated in the un­law­ful ac­tiv­i­ties of the elec­tion cell in vi­o­la­tion of the re­spon­si­bil­i­ties of the army and the ISI as in­sti­tu­tions, which is an act of in­di­vid­u­als but not of in­sti­tu­tions rep­re­sented by them, re­spec­tively."

To quote my ar­ti­cle "Mix­ing facts with il­lu­sion" (March 22): "The ISI did not dis­trib­ute funds to politi­cians in 1990, but it was the MI that did. The honourable chief jus­tice had taken this per­cep­tion to be a fact, but that was wrong. A tech­ni­cal­ity maybe, but it must be cor­rected." On the re­ceiv­ing end from ex­ter­nal vested in­ter­ests (and their lo­cal part­ners), this gives more am­mu­ni­tion to the ISI's de­trac­tors.

"Asad Dur­rani tasked the re­gional di­rec­tor of MI in Karachi, Brig Hamid Saeed, with spread­ing the largesse in Sindh and Balochis­tan. The MI of­fi­cers as­sumed the Rs140 mil­lion that came into the spe­cially opened six ac­counts came from the GHQ. Hamid Saeed and Mir Ak­bar had never met Younus Habib, and they were un­aware he was the source of the funds.

The il­le­gal transactions took place from mid-Septem­ber 1990, when the funds were re­ceived (only about Rs30 went to po­lit­i­cal fig­ures, Rs3.6 mil­lion went to non-po­lit­i­cal fig­ures).

It ended five-six weeks later around the third week of Oc­to­ber 1990, when the bal­ance of the Rs140 mil­lion, ap­prox­i­mately Rs60.5 mil­lion, was sent back to the GHQ (Rs40 mil­lion hav­ing been re­turned ear­lier).

The rea­son for the con­fu­sion be­tween per­cep­tion and fact is prob­a­bly be­cause by mid-Oc­to­ber 1990 Asad Dur­rani was pro­moted to lieu- ten­ant gen­eral and posted as di­rec­tor gen­eral of the ISI, an ap­point­ment he held con­cur­rently for some time with his post of di­rec­tor gen­eral of MI. The dis­tri­bu­tion of funds to politi­cians was over by then. Col Mir Ak­bar, who ac­tu­ally op­er­ated the six ac­counts and per­son­ally dis­bursed most of the funds, sub­se­quently re­placed Col Sa­j­jad, the ISI head in Karachi, on post­ing from MI to the ISI on Asad Dur­rani's re­quest. Around the end of Oc­to­ber, Hamid Saeed ren­dered fi­nal ac­count­ing to Dur­rani, who was by this time di­rec­tor gen­eral of the ISI, about the funds dis­bursed, the bal­ance was re­funded. While MI of­fi­cers were in­volved more as in­di­vid­u­als, rather than the MI was as an in­sti­tu­tion, this was def­i­nitely not an ISI op­er­a­tion. Re­spect­fully, the Supreme Court should cor­rect this wrong per­cep­tion."

To quote fur­ther: "While in ser­vice all three MI of­fi­cers car­ried good rep­u­ta­tion for be­ing up­right sol­diers of good in­tegrity and char­ac­ter. Though the in­struc­tions came from the COAS through the di­rec­tor gen­eral of MI, it did fall in the grey area of be­ing an 'un­law­ful com­mand.'

These of­fi­cers must have been con­vinced that the op­er­a­tion was nec­es­sary, be­cause of the re­quest for 'in-cam­era' pro­ceed­ings one can only guess that na­tional se­cu­rity rea­sons will even­tu­ally be cited as 'ex­ten­u­at­ing cir­cum­stances.'

A metic­u­lous per­son of out­stand­ing merit, Hamid Saeed is in­ca­pable of telling a lie. Though he has had five stents put in his heart in a twostage op­er­a­tion about nine months ago, the Supreme Court should call this out­stand­ing sol­dier (and ci­ti­zen) to tes­tify. Their Lord­ships will find this dis­pas­sion­ate man's heart in the right place."

When he fi­nally did ap­pear be­fore the Supreme Court this Oc­to­ber, Hamid Saeed handed over a 21-year-old di­ary in the court with de­tails. The court made clear that no agency has any role to play in the po­lit­i­cal af­fairs of the coun­try, such as the for­ma­tion or desta­bil­i­sa­tion of a gov­ern­ment or in­ter­fer­ence in any elec­tions. The credit ob­vi­ously goes to the ju­di­ciary not only for ex­pos­ing de­tails of the un­holy nexus be­tween politi­cians, the mil­i­tary and the in­tel­li­gence agen­cies, and the fact that it is some­times detri­men­tal to our na­tional in­ter­ests. The Supreme Court must be com­mended for even­tu­ally bring­ing a clo­sure to such a case, a first of its kind and per­haps un­heard of in the past. For its part, the ISI is sub­jected to all sorts of pres­sures by ex­ter­nal forces for their own ul­te­rior mo­tives, some among our me­dia usu­ally join­ing in when they should know bet­ter.

The mud-sling­ing be­tween the rul­ing PPP and the op­po­si­tion PMLN be­cause of the ver­dict is fur­ther mud­dy­ing the al­ready murky pol­i­tics in the coun­try. Dwelling at length on the role of the pres­i­dent the ver­dict speaks about cleans­ing of the pres­i­dency of po­lit­i­cal ac­tiv­i­ties, the Supreme Court obliquely point­ing fin­gers at Pres­i­dent Asif Zar­dari is bound to af­fect his po­si­tion, vir­tu­ally de­cid­ing the out­come of the con­tempt case against him in the Lahore High Court for hold­ing dual of­fice. Will Zar­dari back down and end the gross vi­o­la­tion of the con­sti­tu­tion? Or carry on and buy up the elec­tions, as usual?

Chal­lenges still lie ahead. The Supreme Court or­dered le­gal ac­tion against the two for­mer gen­er­als of the army, or­der­ing the FIA to ini­ti­ate a trans­par­ent en­quiry against politi­cians who re­ceived "do­na­tions." Will puni­tive ac­tion be taken against ev­ery­one who the Supreme Court iden­ti­fied as hav­ing com­mit­ted crimes? Or will only the army be tar­geted and, for good mea­sure, the ISI too? The army has no grounds to try these of­fi­cers by court mar­tial. The gov­ern­ment may blow hot but on what le­gal grounds will it try to pun­ish the few of­fi­cers?

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