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We never learn from history-4

August 18, 2002

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Another recipient of the largesse distributed by the ISI, courtesy Mr Yunus Habib of Habib and Mehran Bank fame, has surfaced. This time it is the Tumandar of the Legharis, Farooq Ahmad Khan Leghari, chief of the Millat Party, through his Central Secretary, Information, retired Brigadier Mohammad Yousuf, whose letter to the editor of this paper publication was printed on August 16.

In my second column in this series, a handwritten letter and note emanating from retired Lt General Asad Durrani was reproduced in which he had listed Farooq Leghari as having received funds paid out by the ISI to politicians involved in the 1990 elections. Neither in his letter nor note has Durrani indicated that the money originated from the Mehran Bank. However, Brigadier Yousuf goes to some lengths to explain that Mr Leghari never received any funds via the ISI and states that the only amounts received by Mr Leghari from Yunus Habib were by cheque when Habib purchased land from the Leghari family. The Brigadier claims that two and a half years ago, at a press conference at the Karachi Press Club, I testified that Leghari was 'clean' and 'not involved in any such wrongdoing.'

This is highly puzzling, for I could never have said that Farooq Leghari is 'clean' in the matter of the land deal with Yunus Habib, or for that matter, in any of the allegations levelled against him relating to other issues. I have maintained, and I have told him, that amongst the leading ranks of our politicians he may be less blemished than the rest.

From a column written in March 2001, I quote: "We have suffered Benazir twice and Nawaz twice. Each in her/his second round, with Leghari as president of the Republic, did far more wrong than in the first. The people surely do not want or need Farooq Leghari in any future position of power. His friends and 'admirers' should advise him to live off his ancestral properties and whatever assets he has gathered unto himself along the way and renounce politics for his own and our good. He should be satisfied with the fact that he at least occupies a fairly notorious place in the history of Pakistan in the 1990s and is not merely a footnote."

On to another, dubious, political character, retired General Aslam Beg, who once headed the army, and the matter of the Rs140 million donated by Yunus Habib to the Political Cell of the ISI for 'use' in the 1990 general elections. In the Supreme Court in 1997, during the hearing of Air Marshal Asghar Khan's Human Rights Petition, 19/1996, Beg stated that though he was the army chief at the time, the ISI was then acting under the direction of 'higher authorities'. In this regard reproduced is a rejoinder dated April 21, 1994, issued by Beg (on the letterhead of his organization Friends), after allegations of his involvement had been levelled in the press:

"Subsequent to the earlier report published in The News dated April 8, 1994, and its mention in the proceedings of the National Assembly on April 20, 1994, where some of the honourable members made unwarranted remarks, casting aspersions on me and the army, I am constrained to lay down facts which will speak for themselves.

"It is correct that the above amounts were donated by Mr Yunus Habib between September and October 1990. He claimed to have collected this amount from his community through his own efforts and that under the directions from 'President's Planning Cell' the amount was being made available. That the donations were meant for elections 1990 and for acquisition of election intelligence.

"Such donations had been received earlier also from donors within the country and outside and were placed at the disposal of ISI for the same purpose as stated above. Therefore, the receipt of this amount as donation and its utilization by ISI were in keeping with the prevailing practice. The amount so donated by Mr Yunus Habib was deposited in the account of ISI in instalments during September and October 1990, totalling Rs140 million. Out of this amount, ISI spent approximately Rs60 million for election purposes and the remaining Rs80 million was placed in Special Funds of ISI. The details of expenditure on various heads and on individuals supported by ISI with this money may be obtained from the DG-ISI for necessary verification.

"The then president, Mr Ghulam Ishaq Khan, was in the know of such a donation and utilization. Mr Nawaz Sharif, on taking over in November 1990, was personally briefed by me on the amount donated and its utilization by the ISI. I had also briefed late General Asif Nawaz on his taking over as COAS about this matter.

"Subsequently, Mr Yunus Habib donated another Rs5 million for the welfare of troops. I placed this amount at the disposal of Army Welfare Trust for establishing a Rehabilitation Centre for Army Wards. A piece of land measuring approximately 25 kanals near Rawalpindi was purchased out of this fund and the remaining amount was placed in fixed deposit schemes of Army Welfare Trust. I had also briefed late General Asif Nawaz about the purchase of this land and the amount deposited at the time of his taking over as Chief of the Army Staff.

"At no stage did I ever suspect that the amount so donated was out of the funds allegedly embezzled by Mr Yunus Habib while serving in the Habib Bank.

"The manner in which my involvement is being projected in the print media and the unwarranted comments being passed by some politicians is a crude attempt to tarnish my image since I have entered politics. This is a deliberate machination of vested groups who are against politics of sobriety and consensus and want to undermine my efforts to democratically create new leadership from amongst the poor and the middle classes.

"Such sinister designs will ultimately boomerang and expose those very elements who are hatching this conspiracy and feel threatened because of my commitment to a positive change. The process of accountability must take its course with objectivity to punish those who are defaulters but not to make political capital for selfish objectives and vituperative language."

Now, all that is being advocated is that Asghar Khan's petition, now resting in the morgue of the Supreme Court on Constitution Avenue in our capital, be taken up before October so that the matter can be heard and finished, and if any of those on the lists of recipients are found to have been guilty of malpractice and corruption, they can be disqualified from standing for election. Imran Khan has conveyed, through his partyman, Dr Arif Alvi, that he is making an application to the Supreme Court requesting that he be made a party to the petition (anyone can apply to join as the matter involves human rights which affect us all).

On August 10, 2002, Asghar addressed a letter to the Chief Justice of Pakistan, its subject "HRC No.19/96, Air Marshal (R) Mohammad Asghar Khan versus General (R) Mirza Aslam Beg." It reads: "I should like to draw you attention to my letter MAK/12/5 addressed to your predecessor on April 8, 2000 requesting that the above case may please be reopened. I have received no reply to this letter and elections are due on October 10, 2002.

"Many of the people who are guilty of misconduct will, if the case is not heard, be taking part in the elections and the purpose of those elections will thus be defeated. I would request an early hearing and decision in this case."

The Chief Justice of Pakistan, Sheikh Riaz Ahmad, upon whom I had the pleasure of calling on Friday, July 16, whilst he was at Karachi, realizes the urgency of the matter and is considering the Air Marshal's request for an early hearing.