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November 20, 2013

Asghar Khan case: FIA probe may trouble PML-N

Entertainment

WD
Web Desk
November 20, 2013

ISLAMABAD: The government’s decision to form a four-member FIA committee to investigate the distribution of money among ‘favoured politicians’ by the ISI to rig the 1990 polls may prove troublesome for some PML-N leaders who will have to join the investigation process to prove innocence and clear their names.
The FIA committee, headed by FIA Additional Director General Mohammad Ghalib Bandesha, has been constituted in compliance with the Supreme Court’s October 25, 2012 judgment in the infamous Asghar Khan case.
The FIA team, which is bound to complete its investigation within six months [by May 2014] will be interviewing at least two dozen politicians belonging to several political parties, who had been named in the scandal as the alleged recipients of millions of rupees dished out by the ISI before the 1990 polls.
The FIA inquiry team has been set up a full year after a three-member apex court bench comprising Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry, Justice Jawwad Khawaja and Justice Khilji Arif Hussain, had announced its historic verdict in the Asghar Khan case.
The Supreme Court had ruled that the 1990 polls were rigged and that action should be taken against former Army Chief General (retd) Mirza Aslam Beg and former ISI chief Lt Gen (retd) Asad Durrani for violating the Constitution by manipulating the 1990 elections. The IJI had won these elections.
The PPP government did not order any investigation into the ISI money distribution scam [despite the apex court orders] due to the then opposition leader Ch Nisar Ali Khan’s outright rejection of an investigation by the FIA.
Interestingly, at a press conference in Islamabad two days after the court verdict, Nisar expressed surprise over the court move to give responsibility of the investigation to the FIA despite knowing its “poor performance” as a reliable investigation agency. While voicing reservations over paragraph 14 of the judgment in which the government had been directed to

carry out a thorough investigation through the FIA into allegations against politicians of having received money from ISI prior to the 1990 elections, Nisar had questioned the FIA’s role in investigations into various corruption scams, saying. “Did the FIA carry out a transparent probe into the NICL, OGDCL and Haj scams?” But a year later, Nisar Ali Khan in his capacity as the Interior Minister has deemed it fit to implement the apex court ruling and constitute an FIA team of his own choice to investigate the scam.
It is yet to be seen how the opposition parties react to the formation of a FIA probe team by an Interior Minister whose own party leaders are set to be questioned in the ISI funds distribution scam. The historic verdict passed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry had stated: “The general election held in 1990 was subjected to corruption and corrupt practice. It has been established that an Election Cell had been created in the Presidency to provide financial assistance to the favoured candidates or a group of political parties to achieve desired result by polluting election process and to deprive the people from being represented by their chosen representatives.
Legal proceedings shall be initiated against the politicians who have allegedly received donations to spend on their election campaigns in the 1990 election. 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.”
The court verdict was based on a July 24, 1994 affidavit by Lt. Gen. (retd) Asad Durrani. During the Mehrangate investigations conducted by the second Benazir Bhutto government, Younas Habib, had confirmed in his statement filed in the Supreme Court and recorded under section 161 Cr.P.C, that he had paid millions of rupees to some leading right-wing politicians.
During the hearing of the Asghar Khan case, Younas Habib deposed before the Chief Justice on March 8, 2012 that he had himself handed over Rs3.5 million to a PML-N leader [after the 1990 elections] at his Lahore residence while Rs2.5 million had been sent to another PML-N leaders through a Telegraphic Transfer [which was made by one Asif Jamshed] on September 27, 1993. Although the PML-N had described Younas Habib’s deposition as a pack of lies, Aslam Beg and Asad Durrani did confirm in their respective affidavits that PML-N leaders were among the recipients of the funds arranged by Younas and distributed by ISI under President Ghulam Ishaq’s orders.
The PML-N leaders had not only strongly refuted allegations of having received money from the ISI but had also announced taking legal action against Younas Habib on defamation charges. “I neither met Younas Habib nor received money from him,” a leader said on October 25, 2012 in a talk show on a private TV channel. He recalled that the industries owned by his family had paid Rs920 million in taxes during the year 1990, and considering this, accusing him of having received meager amount of Rs2.5 million from the ISI for the 1990 polls was a joke. On his part, the other leader addressed a press conference in Lahore on March 15, 2012, saying he has decided to file a defamation suit against the banker for having filed a baseless deposition with the apex court which was nothing more than a pack of lies.
On April 10, 2012, the PML-N leaders had finally sent a legal notice to Younas Habib on defamation charges, worth Rs10 billion each. The notice stated Younas Habib had levelled fabricated and unsubstantiated allegations to defame our political and social standing. Served through Cornelius, Lane and Mufti Advocates and Solicitors, the notice sought a formal apology from Younas, in print and electronic media, within 14 days of the receipt of the legal notices or else legal proceedings were to be initiated against him, seeking damages of Rs20 billion on behalf of PML-N leaders. But the very next day [on April 11, 2012], Younas responded to the notices, saying he stands by whatever he has stated about the PML-N leaders in the apex court.
At a press conference in Islamabad, Sheikh Azfar Ameen, the counsel for Younas Habib, said his client would not be afraid by the threats and notices from PML-N leaders. He said his client won’t apologise to anyone and he is ready to prove each and every word of his statement about the PML-N leaders once they sue him.
Following Younas’s refusal to apologise to the PML-N leaders, the likely course of action for their lawyers was to file a civil suit of damages against the banker in the court of law for defaming their clients. But since no such civil suit has been filed so far by the lawyers of the PML-N leaders, Younas’s attorney Sheikh Azfar Ameen maintains that it amounts to the admission of guilt on part of the PML-N leaders.