IT is not for us to attempt to fathom the inscrutable workings of Providence , as it works in ways which are often strange. As of now, the future of this country can only be left to divine Providence which has its methods of bringing to retribution those who seek to acquire power in order to amass pelf, and those who tread the wicked ways. And, strangest of all, its stick makes no sound.
Let us think. Had the ‘agencies’ (we cannot dignify them by the appellation of ‘intelligence’) and their cohorts not masterminded the suspension of the Chief Justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry, the rendering of him as non-functional, or the sending of him on forced leave as they did to the irretrievable detriment of their master, would we today have a united bench of the Supreme Court judges exercising independent minds empowered by the people?
To follow on from last week on the matter of the Inter Services Intelligence and its meddling in the political affairs of Pakistan , and in particular in the country’s ‘free and fair’ elections, the indefatigable retired air force air marshal, Asghar Khan, has once again approached the Chief Justice of Pakistan. On August 8, he addressed him :
“Human Rights Petition 19/1996. Sir, I seek your indulgence. My petition No.19 filed in 1996 is pending in the Supreme Court. I should be greatly obliged if you would kindly order that it be urgently heard and adjudged. I may mention that I am now 86 years of age. Thanking you in anticipation and with kind regards...”
The court is now hearing a petition filed by Benazir Bhutto accusing the government of ‘institutional fraud’ by the deletion from the electoral rolls of over 22 million voters. This is an important matter, yes. But if we are on the subject of elections, then equally important is the matter of how the deleted 22 million and the other millions on the rolls are to cast their votes. Can they be allowed to do so fairly and freely without the ISI indulging in its ‘fixing’ tactics which will bring in once again the purchased, corrupt and discredited who have been thrown up in the sporadic elections of the past two decades as ‘representatives’ of the people?Asghar Khan’s petition was filed over one decade ago, it has been partly heard and then shelved, overtaken by the events of October 1999 and the subsequent matter of the judges of our courts and the oath under the Provisional Constitutional Order. Rightly, it should have been taken up before the 2002 elections. It was not, though Asghar twice, in 2000 and again in 2002, approached the then chief justices requesting them to act. For whatever reasons, he was ignored. Let us hope now that Chief Justice Chaudhry will heed his plea and before the elections are upon us decide this vital issue.
How much of the people’s money was been misappropriated to be used by the ISI and its sister agencies to buy candidates during the elections of 1993, 1997, and 2002? We haven’t a clue. But we do know that in 1990 at least Rs.140 million was the sum. Taking into consideration the inflation and the value of the rupee, the total sum employed in the subsequent elections must run into billions.
Let us now look at some of the familiar players involved in the 1990 game.
Firstly, filed in the court is a photocopy of a letter dated June 7 1994, addressed by Lt- General Asad Durrani, formerly head of the ISI, to the then Prime Minister, Benazir Bhutto, who during her second term in office, appointed him as an 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 two million, Hafeez Pirzada three 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 [was] 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). . . .
“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, Asad.”
Filed also in court is a note attached to Durrani’s letter written in his hand, reading: “YH
[Younus Habib ] 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.”
Retired Lt General 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). . .”. This list is too long to be reproduced here.
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 heard. Among others, 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 five million, Jam Sadiq Ali five million, Mohammed Khan Junejo 2.5 million, Pir Pagaro two million, Abdul Hafeez Pirzada Rs.three million, Muzaffar Hussain Shah 0.3 million, Abida Hussain one 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 which had been formed in 1975 under Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, while clarifying that though he was aware of the distribution of funds, he was never personally involved.
Details of other payments : During the Mehrangate investigations of 1993 which led up to a Supreme Court case, Younas Habib of Habib and Mehran Banks, as per his statement filed in court, disclosed that the following political and other pay-offs were made between 1991 and 1994 : “General Mirza Aslam Beg Rs.140 million ; Jam Sadiq Ali (the then chief minister of Sindh), Rs.70 million ; Altaf Hussain (MQM) Rs.20 million, Advocate Yousaf Memon ( for disbursement to Javed Hashmi, MNA and others) Rs.50 million ; 1992 - Jam Sadiq Ali, Rs.150 million ; 1993 - Liaquat Jatoi Rs .01 million ; 1993 - chief minister of Sindh, through Imtiaz Sheikh Rs.12 million; Afaq of the MQM Rs.0.5 million ; 1993 chief minister of Sindh, through Imtiaz Sheikh, Rs. 01. million ; 1993 - Ajmal Khan, a former federal minister, Rs.1.4 million ; 1993 - Nawaz Sharif, former prime minister, Rs.3.5 million ; 27/9/93 Nawaz Sharif, former prime minister, Rs.2.5 million ; 26/9/93 Jam Mashooq Rs. five million ; 26/9/93 Dost Mohammad Faizi Rs. one million ; Jam Haider Rs. two million ; Jam Mashooq Rs. three million ; Adnan, son of Sartaz Aziz, Rs. one million ; Nawaz Sharif and Ittefaq Group of Companies Rs.200 million (photocopies of cheques and deposit slips etc already attached with affidavit at page nos. 42 to 73) ; Sardar Farooq Leghari 12/12/93 (payment set/off) Rs.30 million - 6/1/94 Rs.2.0856 million - 19/3/94 Rs.1.92 million.”
Do we wish such shenanigans to continue at our expense, and at the country’s expense? Can we not learn at least one lesson from history – that if the ISI and the others are given a free hand there can be no such thing as an election that is vaguely free or fair? Is Chief Justice Chaudhry listening? Will he hear the petition and decide?
The encouraging news is that Senior Advocate Iqbal Haider has volunteered to represent Asghar Khan. Barristers Hasan Aurangzeb of Islamabad and Rafay Alam of Lahore will assist him. Let justice prevail.