The Supreme Court on Monday granted four weeks to the Ministry of Defence to submit a reply regarding implementation of its 2012 verdict in the Asghar Khan case.
Earlier on Dec 29, 2018, the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) had suggested that the SC close the case regarding implementation of the Asghar Khan verdict since it did not have enough evidence to launch a criminal prosecution against individuals named in the judgement.
Justice Gulzar Ahmed, who was heading a three-judge bench hearing the case today, remarked that it seems as though the FIA wants to retreat from the case.
Justice Gulzar pointed out that the army had said that action against involved personnel is ongoing. The judge asked the attorney general why the army was undertaking an inquiry against the former officers instead of initiating court martial proceedings.
The attorney general responded that investigation is a legal requirement that must be fulfilled prior to initiating court martial proceedings.
Justice Gulzar asked the attorney general how long after retirement such proceedings could be initiated, to which the attorney general responded it is possible to initiate such proceedings even after retirement.
The judge stated that the court would examine all reports before issuing orders. “At the moment, the Ministry of Defence has asked for four weeks’ time, which is why the case will be adjourned for four weeks,” Justice Gulzar said.
The judge observed that the FIA in its report mentioned that it had been unable to collect evidence because banks don’t keep more than 28-year-old record. “In that case, we will summon the heads of the banks,” he said.
Justice Gulzar remarked that the Muttahida Qaumi Movement and its founder Altaf Hussain had also received money, but noted that Hussain’s name had not been mentioned in the case or the FIA report.
The attorney general told the judge that the FIA report had mentioned Hussain’s name. He said that negotiations are being made with British authorities for repatriation of Altaf Hussain and some others, and that a breakthrough was expected in this regard.
The court decided to adjourn the hearing for four weeks, and to take an overview of the FIA’s report alongside the defence ministry reply.
Asghar Khan case
In 1996, Asghar Khan had filed a human rights petition in the SC, accusing the ISI of doling out money to a group of politicians in the 1990s.
The case was initiated by the air marshal after Benazir Bhutto’s interior minister, retired general Naseerullah Babar, had claimed in the National Assembly in 1994 that the ISI had disbursed funds to “purchase” the loyalty of politicians and public figures so as to manipulate the 1990 elections, form the Islami Jamhoori Ittehad (IJI), and bring about the defeat of the PPP.
Sixteen years after the petition was filed, the SC in its judgement — penned by then chief justice Iftikhar Chaudhry — ruled that the 1990 general elections had been polluted by dishing out Rs140m to a particular group of politicians only to deprive the people of being represented by their chosen representatives.
The court had, however, thrown the ball back to the then PPP government by directing it to take necessary action under the Constitution and law against former army chief retired Gen Mirza Aslam Beg and former director general of ISI retired Lt Gen Asad Durrani for their role in facilitating the group of politicians and political parties to ensure their success against their rivals in the 1990 elections.
On May 7 last year, the SC bench had rejected Beg and Durrani’s petitions to review the October 19, 2012 apex court verdict in the Asghar Khan case.