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A curious apathy

June 14, 2019

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THE FIA, which has of late displayed much alacrity in unearthing evidence against allegedly corrupt politicians, is curiously apathetic where it comes to doing the same in the decades-long Air Marshal Asghar Khan case. In 2012, the Supreme Court handed down a landmark verdict ordering the government to proceed against military personnel accused of having doled out Rs140m among various favoured politicians in order to ensure the PPP’s defeat in the 1990 elections. Since then, the only action of note by the law-enforcement agency has been to repeatedly request the Supreme Court to close the case pertaining to the verdict’s implementation. It did so once again on Wednesday in a report submitted to a three-judge apex court bench, maintaining its inability to substantiate the allegations given that the principal accused, Younis Habib, the petitioner retired Air Marshal Asghar Khan, and nine of the supposed recipients, are no longer alive. At a hearing in January, the family of the late air marshal opposed the FIA’s attempt to consign the scandal to the dustbin of history, pleading that the outcome of the probe the army claimed it was conducting against the personnel allegedly involved be made public.

The 2012 judgement has a profound bearing on one of the main principles of a democratic system — the sanctity of the vote. Manipulated elections — an unfortunately common feature in this country — interrupt the evolution of civil institutions, leaving them over time incapable of protecting people’s fundamental rights. Indeed, we are witnessing the deleterious fallout of precisely such a corrosive process. However, the FIA appears least inclined to exert itself in the matter, instead offering flimsy excuses every time it has been called to task by the apex court. On the face of it, there appears no reason for this lack of enthusiasm. After all, there is an on-the-record confession by one of the principal parties to the crime and several other actors in the shameful episode are still around, and can easily be summoned for questioning.

Published in Dawn, June 14th, 2019