SOME historic injustices need redressal in order for a country to lay old ghosts to rest. It is well over 20 years since the late Asghar Khan filed a human rights petition based on retired Gen Naseerullah Babar’s accusations that the ISI had purchased the loyalties of certain politicians to manipulate the 1990 general election. The allegations were confirmed by retired Gen Asad Durrani, former DG ISI, in an affidavit to the apex court. In it he admitted his role in the affair, named the other players and elaborated on how the scheme unfolded. Notwithstanding this shocking revelation, the case languished until 2012 when the Supreme Court handed down a landmark verdict that had the potential of redrawing the political and institutional landscape along democratic lines. Yet there has been no accountability thus far, either for those who administered the slush fund, nor its recipients. In a time of hyper accountability, the silence on this front has been deafening.

Of late however, the court seems to have resolved not to cut the investigating authorities any more slack. On Monday, it ordered the defence ministry to furnish a reply within four weeks about the implementation of its 2012 verdict. One wonders what is hindering law-enforcement agencies from bringing the case to trial as ordered by the apex court. After all, there is an on-the-record confession by one of the principal parties to the crime. Other prominent individuals, civilians all of them, have been convicted on far less. Imran Khan while on the campaign trail was vocal about the significance of the Asghar Khan case in unmasking the sordid reality behind the 1990 elections. Politically motivated though his contention was — meant to discredit Nawaz Sharif as one of the recipients of the intelligence agencies’ largesse and its direct beneficiary — he must, as chief executive in a parliamentary democracy, throw his weight behind bringing the case to trial. The government should have been quick in asking the FIA to withdraw its unfathomable request to the Supreme Court to close the case because too much time had lapsed since the events in question. Instead, it was left to Asghar Khan’s family to take a principled stand. Let us also not forget that the trail of evidence that led to Nawaz Sharif’s political downfall dates back to around the same time as when the powers that be decided to thwart the right of the people to elect their representatives.

Published in Dawn, February 13th, 2019

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