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ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Tuesday granted one week to the PML-N government to decide the fate of the Asghar Khan case in accordance with the judgement.

The court observed that the federal government was vested with the ultimate power to initiate treason cases under Article 6 of the Constitution against the former army chief, retired Gen Mirza Aslam Beg, and former Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) director general Asad Durrani, for their role in dishing out Rs140 million to a particular group of politicians, including former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, to block chances of Pakistan Peoples Party’s victory in the 1990 general elections.

“We are of the view that the matter be considered by the federal government — the cabinet — and decide within a week in accordance with the Asghar Khan judgement,” observed Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar while dictating an order after the hearing.

The CJP asked Attorney General Ashtar Ausaf to call a special meeting of the cabinet so that the government could decide within one week as to how they wanted to proceed. The court declined to accept the AG’s request for grant of at least two weeks to the government to decide the matter. The court observed that the cabinet should decide about the matter within a week as the term of the government was going to end within three weeks.

SC says ultimate power is vested in the federal government to initiate treason cases against former COAS and ex-ISI chief

The statements of both the ex-DG of ISI and former army chief could determine the nature of the offence, the AG remarked.

During the proceedings, the court wondered whether the matter be sent to the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) or the National Accountability Bureau (NAB). The court also hinted at summoning a report from the FIA, while observing that it would be too early to determine if treason cases should be initiated or not.

Representing the petitioner, the late air marshal Asghar Khan, Advocate Salman Akram Raja said as the Constitution had been subverted, the penalty entailed initiation of the treason cases against the former officers. When the Army Act was silent about taking action against retired army officers, action could be taken against them under any relevant law, the senior counsel argued.

Earlier on Monday, the SC had rejected the review petitions moved by Gen Beg and Lt Gen Durrani who pleaded that the findings and observations made against them were incorrect, with the result that their fundamental right to a fair trial as enshrined in Article 10-A of the Constitution and right to due process of law had been infringed.

The apex court in its detailed judgement of Nov 8, 2012 had ordered the FIA to initiate proceedings against the politicians who had allegedly received ‘donations’ to spend on election campaigns with the objective to block chances of PPP’s victory in the general election of 1990. The FIA was required to prepare cases for trial against the recipients of the funds in case sufficient evidence was found, according to the judgement.

Authored by then CJP Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry, the detailed judgement spread over 140 pages had emphasised that all officers who obeyed unlawful commands were individually liable and in the event of failure of the state authorities to take action, the rights of the people of Pakistan were to be upheld by the apex court.

The verdict had conceded that the 1990 general elections were polluted by providing Rs140 million to a particular group of politicians only to deprive the people from being represented by their chosen representatives.

According to the verdict, an election cell was established in the Presidency to influence the general elections of 1990. Then COAS Gen Aslam Beg and then ISI DG Lt Gen Asad Durrani participated in the unlawful activities of the election cell in violation of the responsibilities of the army and ISI as institutions, which was an act of individuals, but not of the institution they represented.

The ISI or MI may perform their duties as per laws to safeguard the borders of Pakistan or to provide civil aid to the federal government, but such organisations have no role to play in political activities or politics, for formulation or destabilisation of political governments, nor can they facilitate or show favour to a political party or group of political parties or politicians individually, in any manner, which may lead in his or their success, the judgement stated.

Published in Dawn, May 9th, 2018