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November 4, 2012

Those who received money from ISI broke no law, say experts

Sports

November 4, 2012

ISLAMABAD: A set of anti-PPP politicians that received ISI money provided by Younus Habib prior to the 1990 elections committed no offence under any law of Pakistan but their action was morally wrong, eminent constitutional experts believe.
They also say the October 19 short order of the three-member Supreme Court bench headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry on Asghar Khan’s petition relating to this distribution of funds does not identify any law that the recipients violated and which could penalize them.
“The political rivals of these beneficiaries can subject them to attack that they are stooges and agents of the army for having pocketed millions from it, but getting donations for election campaigns is no crime,” these legal brains said.
When contacted, SM Zafar told The News that there was no law in Pakistan that covers contributions made by private individuals to contesting candidates for use in the campaign.
He said the court order did not refer to any law under which the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) would or should proceed against the politicians.
The order said legal proceedings shall be initiated against the politicians, who allegedly have received donations to spend on election campaigns in the 1990 parliamentary polls, therefore, transparent investigation on the criminal side shall be initiated by the FIA against all of them and if sufficient evidence is collected, they shall be sent up to face the trial, according to law.
SM Zafar said he has not found anything in the Constitution, the Pakistan Penal Code or any other law that makes the receipt of money by politicians before 1990 elections illegal. People do voluntarily give donations to politicians; he said adding that the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has rightly declared that it has nothing to do with the case of these beneficiaries.
In the United States, he said, a law exists about the donations to candidates’ of all political posts including

the president. In Pakistan, such a law can be made if there is a need, he added.
The lawyer said that in Yusuf Raza Gilani’s case, the Supreme Court convicted and disqualified him as member of the National Assembly, but no such conviction was imposed on politicians by it in its order on Asghar Khan’s petition.
SM Zafar said the FIA would have no law before it to proceed against the politicians, who received funds from the ISI.
To a question about involvement of the government money in such a murky affair, he said had it been so, a case of embezzlement and misuse of public funds would have been made against those who committed this offence.
The lawyer said the matter of army officers would be covered by the Pakistan Army Act provision that talks about the behaviour of an officer unbecoming his office. There are also two general sections, 52 and 55, that provide for terms of imprisonment.
During a chat with The News, another noted constitutional expert concurred to SM Zafar’s views and said no offence was committed by the politicians in question.
He said the suggestion to revoke Article 6 against former army chief Gen (Retd) Mirza Aslam Beg and former ISI chief Lt-Gen (Retd) Asad Durrani would be stretching the matter too far.
Asghar Khan’s lawyer Salman Akram Raja requested the apex court that those who distributed money among politicians subverted the Constitution and should be tried under Article 6.
The expert said that the money involved in the shady affair was provided by an individual, Younus Habib, who got it from the Habib Bank, which has already recovered it from him. Had the government money been used, charges of misappropriation would have been invoked, he opined.
He said that separate laws would come in play against politicians, if it was established through evidence that the money provided to them was used in influencing the elections like buying of votes, but not the very act of doling out funds is triable.
The lawyer said that it was certainly morally wrong but no crime in the eyes of law that these political figures got money from the ISI. He said their opponents can hammer them for getting funds from the army.
He said a question that would crop up would be in what capacity the top military officers undertook the job of distributing money among the politicians.
The expert said that legal proceedings could also be initiated against contesting candidates whether they have received private donations or not for crossing the limits of expenses on elections.
In the meantime, while the government mouthpieces are slamming former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif day in and day out, urging him to hang his head in shame, apologize to the nation and quit politics for his act, the FIA is waiting for the detailed judgment in the Asghar Khan case to proceed against the political figures.
It is understood that the comprehensive ruling would make certain things clear that have not been elaborated in the interim order.