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Former army, ISI chiefs appear before FIA body in Asghar Khan case

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FORMER chief of Inter-Services Intelligence retired Lt Gen Asad Durrani and ex-army chief retired Gen Aslam Beg
FORMER chief of Inter-Services Intelligence retired Lt Gen Asad Durrani and ex-army chief retired Gen Aslam Beg

ISLAMABAD: Ex-army chief retired Gen Aslam Beg and former chief of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) retired Lt Gen Asad Durrani on Wednesday appeared before the committee constituted for the implementation of the Supreme Court verdict in the Asghar Khan case.

Headed by Additional Director General of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) Ehsan Sadiq, the committee recorded their statements in order to find sufficient evidence against the recipients of Rs140 million given by the ISI’s political cell with the objective of blocking chances of Pakistan Peoples Party’s victory in the 1990 general elections.

Last week the apex court rejected the review petitions of the two generals and sought a progress report from the attorney general and the FIA director general on the previous order passed in 2012.

In its detailed judgement of Nov 8, 2012, the apex court had ordered the FIA to initiate proceedings against the politicians, including ex-PM Nawaz Sharif, who had allegedly been given a total of Rs140 million to stop the PPP from coming to power in 1990. The court had also ordered the FIA to prepare cases for trial if sufficient evidence was found against the recipients of the funds.

In addition to Gen Beg’s formal statement and multiple facts related to the Asghar Khan case, the implementation committee also considered written statements that he had filed in 1997 before the Supreme Court.

Musharraf facing humiliation for deviating from the tradition of toppling regimes with the help of a nexus, says retired Gen Aslam Beg

In his reply filed submitted through Advocate Mohammad Akram Sheikh before the apex court, the ex-army chief gave a brief background of the ISI’s political cell. It said that the ISI had been responsible to the three services for countering intelligence and strategic operational intelligence and functioned under the Joint Services Secretariat (JSS) until 1975. “In 1975, Mr Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, the then Prime Minister, created a political cell within ISI. As a result, the ISI was made responsible to the Chief Executive, i.e. the Prime Minister/President for all matters of national and political intelligence. After the establishment of High Defence Organisation in 1976, ISI continued to be responsible to the Chief Executive, while JSS maintained administrative control only. This was the situation which existed in 1990 and continues even today [in 1997].”

Citing press reports, the document stated that ISI’s political cell “allegedly manipulated people’s right to form association under Article 17 of the Constitution and have also reportedly acted to frustrate the will of the citizens of the country”.

The former army chief also suggested to the court, that in the interest of the national security, “a disputed political cell be treated differently and distinctly from the rest of the institution and may also be dealt with separately so as to rid political process from undesirable, unhealthy and extraneous influence”.

Before his appearance before the implementation committee, Gen Beg told Dawn that he had already placed each and every detail and information before the apex court about the 1988 events. He said his stance was the same as it had been a couple of decades ago when he had submitted his detailed response to the apex court.

He said the nexus between the army and the judiciary had toppled different regimes with the help of politicians four times. In fact, he added, politicians invited the army and urged the judiciary to topple the regimes.

The successive military chiefs followed the tradition set in 1988, as instead of stepping in, they let the politicians change the regime, he explained. He said Gen Musharraf was different in that he staged a coup in 1999. “This is the reason that he is experiencing humiliation and even facing a treason case,” Gen Beg said. However, he added that the politicians who aided and abetted and vowed to elect him in uniform were not only enjoying freedom and but also active in politics.

The FIA had launched the probe into the Asghar Khan case by the end of 2013 — almost a year after the Supreme Court had ordered an investigation into the Rs140 million distribution among the politicians and others — and reportedly recorded statements of then PM Sharif, retired Air Marshal Asghar Khan, former ISI chief Asad Durrani, Mehran Bank owner Younis Habib, Advocate Yousuf Memon (who allegedly gave money among others to the veteran politician Javed Hashmi) and veteran journalist Altaf Hassan Qureshi till 2015.

In the landmark judgement, the apex court had stated that in the general elections of 1990 the election cell was established in the Presidency to influence the elections and was aided by retired Gen Aslam Beg, who was then army chief, and ex-DG-ISI Asad Durrani and they 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 institutions 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 organizations have no role to play in the political activities/politics, for formulation or destabilization 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 court stated.

Published in Dawn, May 17th, 2018