ISLAMABAD: While referring to the dreaded political cell in the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), the Supreme Court categorically stated on Monday that the judiciary would not accept any extra-constitutional interference in the democratic order.
Citing a number of judgments, including the July 31, 2009, landmark verdict which denounced successive military takeovers and the one which sent former prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani home, a three-judge bench said that through these pronouncements the court had made it abundantly clear that the affairs of the state had to be governed strictly in accordance with the Constitution and no interference of any nature from functionaries, other than those under the Constitution, was acceptable.
The bench comprising Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, Justice Jawwad S. Khwaja and Justice Khilji Arif Hussain had taken up a 1996 petition of Tehrik-i-Istiqlal chief Air Martial (retd) Asghar Khan who accused the ISI of financing politicians in the 1990 elections by dishing out Rs140 million to create Islami Jamhoori Ittehad (IJI) and prevent Benazir Bhutto’s PPP from winning the polls.
“The democratic order under the Constitution should be allowed to continue without any extra-constitutional interference,” the court said while citing its earlier verdicts. It asked Attorney General Irfan Qadir to seek instructions from the quarters concerned about the existence of the cell.
On May 17 also the court had directed the AG to procure and submit the notification under which the political cell had been set up in 1975 by then chief executive Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.
Mr Qadir assured the court that he would dig out information about the notification. He is also required to bring into the notice of the prime minister under whose commands the ISI functions about the dictum laid down by the Supreme Court in different cases in which the court always encouraged the continuation of the democratic system of governance.
“What the Constitution provides are required to be done accordingly,” observed the chief justice while dictating the order after Monday’s proceedings.
Advocate Salman Akram Raja, representing Asghar Khan, regretted that former ISI chief Hameed Gul had been claiming in interviews that given the chance what was done in the 90s would be repeated again. “There has been no repentance and this mindset has not changed,” the counsel said.
The court observed that it had endeavoured to change this mindset through the July 31 judgment.
“Let the democratic process continue. We are happy that the new prime minister has come. No Bangladesh model can be introduced in Pakistan,” the court observed.
The chief justice had some praise for the armed forces when he said the court had great respect for the troops. “They are being slaughtered like anything,” the court said.
The court was informed that former director general of ISI Lt-Gen (retd) Asad Durrani had submitted documents which shed light on the process of setting up the ISI political cell. The documents include facts about the existence of the cell contained in a concise statement he had earlier submitted to the court.
Gen Durrani is also required to submit the list he had promised containing the names of ISI officials involved in the operation to substantiate the doling out of funds among different politicians. The attorney general said nothing substantive or detrimental evidence in any manner had been provided in the documents. The court asked him to submit the documents in a sealed cover.
The court also mentioned the Feb 6, 1997, order which indicated that the former AG had to inform the court whether the ISI political cell was still working or had been disbanded.
Defence Secretary Nargis Sethi, who appeared before the court, was asked if the ISI, Military Intelligence and the defence ministry would be represented by any counsel. “We want to give an opportunity so that nobody can say he has been condemned unheard,” the court said.
The defence secretary said she would consult relevant stakeholders in this regard. She said that despite her best efforts the notification about the setting up of political cell in the ISI could not be traced. “The issue is 38 years old, but I will make another effort,” she assured the court.
The attorney general informed the court that authenticity or veracity of the commission’s report on Mehran Bank Limited was not possible because the original one was still missing.
About the report on Habib Bank Limited, the AG said it could not be completed because the then government had stopped the commission concerned from conducting the inquiry in 1997.
The court recalled that 14 to 15 statements had been recorded before the commission on Habib Bank and asked the AG to get their copies.
The court adjourned the hearing till July 30.