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February 12, 2019

Asghar Khan case: Why officers not court martialed?

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February 12, 2019

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court (SC) sought progress report from the Ministry of Defence (MoD) within four weeks on an ongoing inquiry against the military officers allegedly involved in distributing Rs140 million among the politicians for manipulating the 1990 general elections.

A three-member bench of the apex court, headed by Justice Gulzar Ahmed, resumed the hearing of the case on Monday over non-implementation of its October 19, 2012 judgment in the case. Other members of the bench were Justice Ijazul Ahsan and Justice Faisal Arab. 

In 1996, Asghar Khan had moved the Supreme Court, alleging that two senior army officers and the then-president Ghulam Ishaq Khan had doled out Rs140 million among several politicians ahead of the 1990 polls to ensure Benazir Bhutto's defeat in the polls, following allegations in the National Assembly by the senior PPP leader and former interior minister Maj Gen (retd) Naseerullah Babar.

On October 19, 2012, the apex court issued a 141-page verdict, ordering legal proceedings against Gen (retd) Mirza Aslam Beg and Lt Gen (retd) Asad Durrani in a case filed 16 years ago by Asghar Khan. The 2012 apex court judgment, authored by the then-Chief Justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Chaudhry, had ruled that the 1990 general elections were polluted by dishing out Rs140 million to a particular group of politicians only to deprive the people of being represented by their chosen representatives. The court had directed the Federal Investigation Agency to initiate a transparent investigation and conduct a subsequent trial if sufficient evidence was found against the former army officers.

On Monday, the Ministry of Defence submitted a report to the court, stating that an inquiry against the military officials, allegedly involved in the matter was under process. The court then directed the Ministry of Defence to submit within four weeks, progress report on the said proceedings and declared that the report submitted by the FIA will be reviewed along with the progress report of the Ministry of Defence. At the outset of the hearing, Justice Gulzar Ahmed inquired the attorney general as to why the Ministry of Defence was not initiating action for the court-martial of military officials, involved in the instant matter instead of conducting an inquiry. The attorney general replied that in accordance with the law, an inquiry was mandatory before moving to the court-marital proceedings. Justice Ijaz ul Ahsen asked after retirement how much time does the court-martial process takes. The attorney general replied that court-martial could be done anytime if it is a matter of fraud or case pertaining to loss to the national kitty. At this, Justice Ijazul Ahsen observed that 24 years ago some Rs140 million were inappropriately spent.

Meanwhile, Justice Gulzar Ahmed observed that the name of Altaf Hussain, founder of Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), was among the recipients of the money, however, his name neither appeared in the instant case nor in the report submitted by the FIA. "Why nobody is appearing before the court on behalf of Altaf Hussain?” Justice Gulzar Ahmed asked. The AG replied that Altaf Hussain was staying abroad.

Justice Gulzar Ahmed observed that the FIA in its report had submitted that the banks did not have the record of the amount distributed among the politicians. "If this is the situation, then the court will summon the heads of these banks," Justice Gulzar said. Meanwhile, the court adjourned further hearing for four weeks.

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