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We never learn from history-2

August 04, 2002

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Now, as we approach the promised October elections, our press carries many a story about how the intelligence agencies are transferring and 'placing' officials all over the country, and how the agencies are harassing certain individuals for not toeing the official line. We also read reports about how the 'placed' aspiring legislators and their 'supporters', all renowned as shady characters, are even managing to 'influence' men in uniform to gain support.

On July 3, the governor of Sindh, Mohammadmian Soomro (my 'nephew' - he very respectuflly addresses me as 'uncle'), transformed his learned and efficient education minister, Professor Anita Ghulam Ali, into an 'adviser' and also sent home his irrigation minister, Ali Mir Shah. He then swore in Syed Ejaz Ali Shah Shirazi as irrigation minister and Sardar Muqeem Khan Khoso as agriculture minister (water tap and land ownership/transfer controllers), Khan Mohammad Dahri as education minister (organizing teachers at polling stations), Mian Abdul Baqi as auqaf minister (money to spend and distribute), and Dr Arbab Ghulam Rahim as minister of local government (the works). My 'nephew' could not explain who chose these 'fixers', who ordered him to swear them in, and who is their 'godfather'.

Nothing new. On April 25, 1994, this newspaper carried an editorial entitled 'Our secret godfathers', which opened up: "Two basic points emerge from General Aslam Beg's admission that in 1990 he took Rs 14 crores from the banker Younus Habib and that part of this money was spent by the ISI during the elections that year . . . . . ". And closed, saying ". . . it is time now for some sort of check on the rogue political activities of our intelligence agencies . . .". It was not time, and apparently it is still not time.

In 1996, Air Marshal Asghar Khan filed a human rights petition in the Supreme Court against General Mirza Aslam Beg, former chief of army staff, Lt General Asad Durrani, former chief of the Inter-Services Intelligence, and Younus Habib of Habib Bank and then Mehran Bank, concerning the criminal distribution of the people's money for political purposes (HRC 19/96). In this case, Lt General Naseerullah Babar filed an affidavit in court supported by copies of various documents and a photocopy of a letter dated June 7, 1994, addressed by Durrani to the then prime minister, Benazir Bhutto, who, during her second term in office, appointed him as her ambassador to Germany, which reads:

"My dear Prime Minister,"A few points I could not include in my 'confessional statement' handed over to the director, FIA. These could be embarrassing or sensitive. (a) The recipients included Khar 2 million, Hafeez Pirzada 3 million, Sarwar Cheema 0.5 million and Mairaj Khalid 0.2 million. The last . . . . . . . [illegible] someone's soft corner that benefited them. (b) The remaining 80 million were either deposited in the ISI's 'K' fund (60 m) or given to director external intelligence for special operations (perhaps the saving grace of this disgraceful exercise. But it is delicate information.) [Noted in the margin of this paragraph, by the writer in his own hand: "This is false. The amount was pocketed by Beg (Friends)"]

"The operation not only had the 'blessings' of the president [Ghulam Ishaq Khan] and the wholehearted participation of the caretaker PM [Ghulam Mustafa Jatoi], but was also in the knowledge of the army high command. The last mentioned will be the defence of many of us, including Gen Beg (who took his colleagues into 'confidence' but that is the name that we have to protect).

"The point that I have 'wargamed' in my mind very often is: what is the object of this exercise? (a) If it is to target the opposition, it might be their legitimate right to take donations, especially if they come through 'secret channels'. Some embarrassment is possible, but a few millions are peanuts nowadays. (b) If the idea is to put Gen Beg on the mat: he was merely providing 'logistic support' to donations made by a community 'under instructions' from the government and with the 'consent' of the military high command. In any case; I understand he is implicated in some other deals in the same case. (c) GIK will pretend ignorance, as indeed he never involved himself directly. (d) Of course, one has to meet the genuine ends of law. In that case let us take care of the sensitivities like special operations and possibly that of the army.

"It was for these reasons that I desperately wanted to see you before leaving. I also wanted to talk about my farewell meeting with the COAS [General Waheed Kakar]. In the meantime you must have met often enough and worked out what is in the best interest of the country.

I keep praying that all these natural and man-made calamities are only to strengthen us in our resolve and not in any way reflective of our collective sins. With best regards and respects

Yours sincerely, Asad"Filed also in the court is a note, attached to Durrani's letter written in his own hand, reading: "YH TT Peshawar A/C Sherpao For Election 5,00,000; Anwar Saifullah for MBL deposit 15,00,000; Farooq Leghari PO Issued 1,50,00,000. Another 1,50,00,000 paid through Bank. There are a host of other political figures who received funds like Liaquat Jatoi, Imtiaz Sheikh."

Naseerullah Babar also filed in court a copy of a bank account sheet headed "G/L Account. Activity Report. Account 12110101 G. Baig (sic.)" The column heads read "Transaction, Date, Particulars, Debit, Credit." The numbered transactions took place between October 23, 1991, and December 12, 1993. The first transaction listed was "Cash-P.O. Karachi Bar Association A/C Gen. Baig (sic.), debit, 5,05,680" (advocate Mirza Adil Beg, Aslam Beg's nephew, the then president of the KBA, confirms that the KBA received the money). In January 1992 USD 20,000 was sold @ 26.50 and 5,30,000 was credited to the account. Thereafter all debits: "Arshi c/o Gen. Baig (sic.) 2,90,000; Cash paid to Gen. Shab 2,40,000; Cash Friends 1,00,000 [Aslam Beg's organization, FRIENDS, Foundation for Research on National Development and Security]; Cash TT to Yamin to pay Gen. Shab 3,00,000; Cash TT to Yamin Habib 12,00,000 ; Cash Friends 1,00,000 ; Cash Friends 1,00,000 ; Cash paid through YH 10,00,000 ; Cash Friends TT to Salim Khan 2,00,000 ; Cash 1,00,000 ; Cash Towards Friends 5,00,000 ; Cash Asif Shah for Benglow 35,000 ; Cash Friends 1,00,000 ; Cash Friends 1,00,000 ; Cash TT through Yamin for Friends 1,00.000 ; Cash paid to Fakhruddin G. Ebrahim 2,00,000 [he confirms having received the money from General Beg as fees and expenses for defending him in the contempt of court charge brought against him - PLD 1993 SC310] ; Cash paid through TT to Yamin for Friends ; Cash paid to Fakhruddin G Ebrahim 1,28,640 [he confirms receipt for fees/expenses for contempt case] ; Cash Guards at 11-A 10,500 ; Cash TT for USD 240,000 Fav. Riaz Malik to City Bank (sic.) New York 68,76,000 ; Cash Friends 1,00,000; Cash Guards at 11-A 10,500 ; Cash Mjr. Kiyani 10,000; Cash mobile phone for Col. Mashadi 28,911 ; Cash TT fav. Qazi Iqbal and M Guddul 3,00,000 ; Cash Mjr. Kiyani 10,000 ; Cash TT to Peshawar 3,00,000 ; Cash deposited at Karachi A/C EC [Election Commission] 3,00,000 ; Cash Guards 24,000 ; Cash TT to Quetta 7,00,000 ; Cash mobile bill of Col. Mashadi 3,237 ; Cash TT to Peshawar Br. 4,00,000 ; Cash deposited at Karachi Br. 4,00,000 ; Cash Guards 11,520 ; Cash TT to Peshawar for EC 2,00,000 ; Cash TT to Quetta for EC 2,00,000 ; Cash Guards 5,760 ; Cash Mjr. Kiyani 5,000 ; Cash A/C Guards 8,640 ; Cash th. YH 2,00,000 ; Cash A/C Guards 5,760 ; Cash TT to Salim Khan 1,00,000."

The "host of other political figures who received funds" from an ISI account were revealed in the Supreme Court when Air Marshal Asghar Khan's petition was being heard. Inter alia, Nawaz Sharif received (in rupees) 3.5 million, Lt General Rafaqat [GIK's election cell] 5.6 million, Mir Afzal 10 million, Ghulam Mustafa Jatoi 5 million, Jam Sadiq Ali 5 million, Mohammed Khan Junejo 2.5 million, Pir Pagaro 2 million, Abdul Hafeez Pirzada 3 million, Yusuf Haroon 5 million [he confirms having received this for Altaf Hussain of the MQM], Muzaffar Hussain Shah 0.3 million, Abida Hussain 1 million, Humayun Marri 5.4 million. During the hearing of the case, Aslam Beg, under oath, revealed the existence of a political cell within the ISI, whilst clarifying that though he was aware of the distribution of funds he was never personally involved.

These documents and many others, filed in the Supreme Court, are a matter of public record. In this regard, reference should be made to paragraph 111, 'Corruption', of the judgment of the Supreme Court of Pakistan on the Proclamation of Emergency dated 14th, October, 1999 (approved for reporting), delivered by Chief Justice Irshad Hassan Khan and his eleven Brothers, sanctifying General Pervez Musharraf's takeover. It is a list presented by Attorney-General Aziz Munshi listing cases of corruption, some dating back to 1990, the lists of ISI payments, Babar's and Durrani's affidavits being amongst them.

Should not all these corrupt, bribed political people who shamelessly accepted the people's money for their own political ends, and who have never denied having received such payoffs, not stand disqualified for life?

Air Marshal Asghar Khan is still waiting to have his petition challenging the corrupt and clandestine use of public funds (pending since 1996) heard by the Supreme Court, as is also General Naseerullah Babar. They both have much to reveal. They are prepared to face the judiciary.