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March 10, 2012

Givers and takers of money both responsible: CJ

March 10, 2012


ISLAMABAD: Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry on Friday said that those who had distributed money and those who had received the money in the Mehrangate scandal were equally responsible, adding that the allegations would have to be proven.
Former army chief Mirza Aslam Beg on Friday apologised for using contemptuous language in the counter-affidavit in which he had claimed to have completed a ‘hat trick’ of appearing before the Supreme Court.
Chief Justice Chaudhry took strong exception to the language used by the former army chief in the counter-affidavit filed in response to the affidavit filed by Younis Habib, former Mehran Bank president.
In his counter-affidavit, Mirza Aslam Beg, in para 14, contended to have completed his hat trick of appearing before the court, an honour that no other army chief could possibly claim. “I sincerely thank this honourable court for making me complete my hat trick of appearing before the apex court. The first time I appeared before Chief Justice M Afzal Zullah, second time before Chief Justice Sajjad Ali Shah and now before this honourable court under the dynamic leadership of Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry,” Aslam Beg said in the affidavit. “And yet, I wonder ‘Janay kis jurm ki pai hai saza yad nahin’ (why I am being punished, I know not),” he added.
The court took serious exception to what it declared contemptuous language and asked the former army chief to tender a written apology.
Mirza Aslam Beg submittedcounsel Muhammad Akram Sheikh before a three-member bench of the Supreme Court headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry hearing a plea moved by Air Marshal (R) Asghar Khan in 1996 regarding the alleged disbursement of money among anti-PPP politicians through the ISI.
The chief justice admonished Muhammad Akram Sheikh, counsel for Mirza Aslam Beg, upon his failure to properly guide his client on filing the affidavit. “Why did you fail to ask your client not to

reply in such a contemptuous manner?” the chief justice admonished Akram Sheikh, saying the language used by Aslam Beg was contemptuous and could not be allowed. “Do you think such language could be used for the court,” Justice Iftikhar asked Akrami Shiekh, asking that his client come to the rostrum and tender a written apology and expunge para 14 of his affidavit.
“Give us a written apology right now otherwise we will take action against your client,” the Chief Justice told Akram Sheikh. Akram Sheikh then asked Aslam Beg, who was present in the courtroom, to come to the rostrum and tender a written apology before the court, which the former army chief did. “With reference to my affidavit in response to the affidavit of Younus Habib I sincerely apologise for the contents of para 14 of my affidavit, and submit that it may be deleted and not considered part of my affidavit,” Aslam Beg said in his written apology.
The court accepted the unconditional apology of Aslam Beg along with the request to delete the paragraph from his counter affidavit. Earlier during the hearing, when the court drew the attention of Akram Sheikh towards para 14 of the affidavit, Akram Sheikh stated that it was to be read in the context of other paragraphs as according to him, his client was being maligned at the behest of the Pakistan People’s Party government.
During the hearing, Lt Gen (R) Asad Durrani, former DG ISI, submitted under oath that he received instruction from then army chief Mirza Aslam Beg that a certain business community in Karachi had raised some contribution to support the election campaign of the IJI and “If I could arrange for it to be distributed as per the formulas, that would be conveyed to me by the election cell in the president’s office.”
He added that he already stated that there was no political cell in the ISI but that political work could be done by some designated persons. “In 1994 I was not aware of the Mehran Bank scandal, but as I was asked only to provide details of the money amounting to Rs140 million spent in the election, therefore, I never tried to learn under whose instructions the said amount was collected from the business community of Karachi. I do not recall whether I was cross-examined in camera or not.”
Muhammad Akram Sheikh said from day one his point of view was that this case was absolutely based upon disputed facts. Under instructions, he said, he was of the opinion that a political cell was created under an administrative instrument/executive order passed by the late Zulfikqar Ali Bhutto by means of an SRO issued in the year of 1975. “The existence of such a political cell is unwarranted and is an interference in the fundamental rights of the people of Pakistan, guaranteed under Article 17 and this court could declare that no such political cell be allowed to continue in the security agencies,” Akram Sheikh said.
He contended: “I have further argued that the petitioner, Asghar Khan, also confined himself to the extent of existence of the political cell in ISI as is evident from his letters addressed to this court, available at pages 268, dated April 17, 1998; 273 dated January 30, 1999 and 289, dated November 9, 1999, respectively”.
Salman Akram Raja, counsel for the petitioner, stated that his client had sought relief for direction that all persons, including defence/army Officers, who were respondents, who acted so as to interfere with and manoeuvre the electoral process in any manner, including through disbursement of funds, had subverted the constitution. He further recalled that the petitioner had prayed for direction to the federation to initiate appropriate proceedings under criminal and election laws against the alleged givers and recipients of funds for political purposes, including the respondents and the various persons named in Lt Gen(R) Durrani’s letter to the premier dated June 7, 1994 and affidavit dated July 24, 1994.
Younus Habib, while appearing before the court, submitted that he did not want to add anything further except the statement, which he had already filed/given before this court. The court directed Attorney General Maulvi Anwarul Haq to inquire from the federal government whether commission reports regarding Mehran Bank and Habib Bank had been made public and if not, reasons should be assigned and the said reports should be made available for court perusal in camera.
The attorney general said he would submit an application for permission to go through the cross-examination of the affidavits of Lt Gen(R) Asad Durrani and Maj Gen(R) Nasirullah Khan Babar and thereafter would assist the court whether such proceedings could be considered classified by the state or if the courts could declare them declassified.
The court directed its office to hand over photocopies of the affidavits filed by Asad Durrani and Younus Habib as well as counter affidavit submitted by Mirza Aslam Baig along with authentic copies of the orders sheet, to the attorney general during course of the day.
Later, the court adjourned the hearing till March 14. Mirza Aslam Beg in his counter affidavit denied the contents of the affidavit submitted by Younus Habib. In his counter affidavit, he said Younus Habib had tried to malign him and former president Ghulam Ishaq Khan and several others in this sordid game of mixing politics with justice, with the sordid intent to obstruct the wheel of justice.
He said in response to the allegations of Habib, a self condemned perjurer, he considered it proper to bring on record for the kind attention of the court, the disappearance of the statements of General (R) Asad Durrani and Maj General (R) Naseerullah Khan Babar recorded by this court in camera but not yet found. “This fact supports the respondent’s apprehension that the vested interests, which carry the legacy of the vendetta of the lady Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto against the respondent for allegedly causing the fall of her government in 1990, continue to haunt him and endeavour to interfere with even the record of this august court,” Aslam Beg said.
The former army chief further said in the earlier statement quoted to have been made by Younus Habib, there was no mention of Rs1,800 million and other allegations that “He talked about now and claims that he was directed to produce this amount by hook or by crook.”
He submitted Habib had tried to develop a new story to cover up his own crimes of having siphoned of Rs1,800 million from Habib Bank/Mehran Bank for which he was prosecuted, jailed and made to pay almost double the amount of over Rs3 billion. “Thus, politics and crime mingled together to create space for denial of justice,” he added.
“I find myself handicapped in properly replying to the affidavit filed by Younus Habib without having in hand the report of Mehran Bank Scandal Commission and Habib Bank Scandal Commission,” Aslam Beg submitted.
He requested the court to direct the present incumbent PPP government to supply him a copy of the report so that he might submit his detailed response to what he called malicious, prompted and absolutely false allegations.