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ISLAMABAD, Oct 15: Fingers were again pointed at premier intelligence agencies working without the backing of a proper legislative foundation during a Supreme Court hearing about the ISI doling out funds to politicians in the 1990s.

“No proceeding is being sought against the armed forces but the uncharitable acts done by individuals without any legislative basis always raise questions about the working of such institutions,” said Salman Akram Raja, the counsel for Tehrik-i-Istiqlal chief Air Marshal (retd) Asghar Khan. A three-judge bench comprising Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry, Justice Jawwad S. Khawaja and Justice Khilji Arif Hussain had taken up a petition filed in 1996 by Asghar Khan requesting the court to look into allegations that the ISI had financed many politicians in the 1990 elections by dishing out Rs140 million to create the Islami Jamhoori Ittehad and stop Benazir Bhutto’s PPP from coming to power.

The petition was based on an affidavit of ISI’s former director general Lt-Gen (retd) Asad Durrani.

But the bench reminded the counsel that the court was not seized with the matter of blaming any institution. “We only have to confine ourselves to the petition of Asghar Khan who was only pleading that bad name was brought against the institutions through disbursement of the money. We cannot stop anyone from doing legislation in this regard,” the court said. But Salman Raja recalled that attempts had been made in the past to rein in the agencies through legislation, but without any success.

The court observed that it was the job of the military to protect the borders and it was up to the people to vote any party to power.

The counsel insisted that by doling out money to a particular group concerted efforts had been made to violate Article 17 of the Constitution which ensured freedom of forming associations and political parties.

Referring to the existence of an election cell in the presidency in the 1990s, he said this was the only defence taken by former army chief Gen (retd) Aslam Beg and emphasised that even if the former army chief was tasked by late president Ghulam Ishaq Khan to carry out this exercise, senior army officers were always expected to seek written instructions instead of straightaway implementing the orders.

Verbal instructions were never enough because state affairs were not carried out through unwritten orders, the counsel said, adding that since such were not battlefield decisions, senior army officers were required to first seek the legality of the orders.

“Bona fide has to be tested on some legal authorisation,” he said. The chief justice reiterated that the president being a symbol of the federation was not supposed to indulge in activities to favour a particular group. He recalled that the Eighth Amendment made the presidency stronger which was evident from the fact that the government of Mohammad Khan Junejo and two governments each of Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif had been sent packing.

Secretary to the President House Malik Asif Hayat informed the court that a proper reply would be submitted by Wednesday about the election cell in the presidency after recovering the old record.

At the last hearing, the court had decided to make the president’s office a necessary party on the apprehensions that the cell set up to tamper with the 1990 elections was being controlled by the presidency.

The notice was issued to the President House in view of an earlier statement by Gen Asad Durrani that the election cell had been constituted in the presidency on the instructions of Ghulam Ishaq Khan. Ijlal Haider Zaidi and Roedad Khan were members of the cell.

On Monday, Roedad Khan appeared before the court and denied allegations that he was involved in the disbursement of money from the presidency to a group working as IJI.

The court ordered Gen Durrani to submit comprehensive written arguments.

Advocate Munir Paracha, representing Younus Habib who headed the now defunct Mehran Bank, informed the court that his client had paid the amount in question.

The court will take up the case on Tuesday.