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ISLAMABAD, Oct 16: The Supreme Court, which is hearing a case over allegations that the ISI had doled out funds to politicians in the 1990s, turned down on Tuesday a request by former army chief Gen (retd) Aslam Beg to provide copies of cross-examination of former interior minister Lt-Gen (retd) Naseerullah Babar recorded in camera.

“It is not possible to make these documents public because there are certain things in the documents which cannot be made public,” observed Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry. After due diligence the order to keep the document secret was made, he said.

A three-judge bench, comprising the chief justice, Justice Jawwad S. Khawaja and Justice Khilji Arif Hussain, had taken up a petition filed in 1996 by Tehrik-i-Istiqlal chief 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.

An affidavit submitted to the court on behalf of Jamaat-i-Islami’s deputy secretary general Fareed Paracha categorically denied that the party had ever received Rs5 million during the 1990 elections from any military or civilian officer. It said the allegation levelled in Gen Durrani’s affidavit was totally baseless and misleading.

The court also summoned then head of the Military Intelligence, Brig (retd) Hamid Saeed, whose postal address was provided by Gen Durrani. Advocate Akram Sheikh, representing Gen Aslam Beg, argued that it was not possible to continue with the arguments without first looking at the statement of Naseerullah Babar, which was recorded during the course of hearing in the 1990s.

The 12-page cross-examination has been kept under custody of the SC registrar in a sealed cover.

Akram Sheikh said Gen Babar was the linchpin of the entire controversy which surfaced in 1996 and insisted that he should have access to all documents whether recorded in camera or in open court. He recalled that Gen Babar had alleged in the National Assembly in 1996 that Gen Beg had disbursed Rs140 million among politicians and also misappropriated it.

Gen Durrani later wrote a secret letter to the then prime minister which, according to the counsel, was aimed at enlarging on the first version of the allegations he had levelled.

The chief justice observed that the case had become significant after the admissions by parties, including Gen Beg.

The counsel said it had become obligatory upon the court to find the truth. It was Gen Beg who first called for closing the political cell in the ISI.

The court expressed concern over reluctance, particularly on the part of the incumbent government, to try those accused of disbursing the money during the 1990 elections.

Wrapping up his arguments, Salman Akram Raja, the counsel for Asghar Khan, said the court should come out with a judgment asking for punishment to top military officers of that time. He cited an example of Turkey where army generals were tried recently.

The chief justice said the court would examine if any constitutional provision had been violated. Apparently, he said, three important offices were involved in the matter -- the then president, the army chief and the head of the ISI.

Salman Raja requested the court to summon Ijlal Haider Zaidi, believed to have been an important player in the alleged election cell operating in the presidency during the early 1990s.

The court said it would look into the request after receiving a reply from the presidency.

In a written statement, former bureaucrat Roedad Khan again denied any role in the election cell and referred to a report of Rafi Raza, then prime minister’s special assistant, on the scandal and functioning of the ISI’s political cell. The Prime Minister Secretariat must be in possession of the report, he added.

Roedad Khan said he had met Gen Beg only once in his capacity of acting interior secretary.