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Govt in a fix on ISI-IJI funding probe

November 12, 2012

Minister for Interior Rahman Malik – File photo by AFP
Despite repeated attempts, neither Qamar Zaman Kaira, who is chief spokesman of both the PPP and the federal government, nor Rehman Malik, who controls the FIA, were available for comment. – File photo by AFP

ISLAMABAD: Although the governing Pakistan People’s Party has ratcheted up criticism of its main rival, the PML-N, following the release of the detailed judgment by the Supreme Court in the Asghar Khan case, the government is yet to initiate an FIA-led inquiry against politicians who were allegedly financed by the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) in the 1990 general elections.

On the other hand, the PML-N which initially expressed its serious reservation over the investigation by the Federal Investigating Agency (FIA) as directed by the court has called for immediate implementation of the judgment. Since the release of the detailed judgment on Nov 8, PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif has more than once asked the government to implement the court verdict which he said carried no ambiguity.

According to analysts and political insiders, the PPP’s dithering over launching the inquiry and the PML-N’s demand for strict implementation of the court judgment, have their own valid grounds for doing so.

A senior PPP leader and federal minister said the issue of inquiry had come under discussion more than once in recent meetings presided over by PPP Co-Chairman Asif Ali Zardari in Islamabad, but the party leadership was still unable to take a decision.

He said hawks in the party wanted an immediate inquiry against the former IJI politicians, including the Sharif brothers, and its completion before the general elections, but a considerable number of party leaders called for adopting a go-slow policy and allowing the caretakers to handle the court judgment.

“President Zardari is also talking to coalition partners, taking their suggestions on how the government should move forward on the court order because of the coming general elections.” A simple miscalculation now could have far-reaching political implications for the coalition partners, he said.Meanwhile, the PPP leader said, Interior Minister Rehman Malik had been asked to do complete the required work so that action could be taken immediately if the government decided to go for the inquiry.

Despite repeated attempts, neither Qamar Zaman Kaira, who is chief spokesman of both the PPP and the federal government, nor Rehman Malik, who controls the FIA, were available for comment.

Talking to Dawn, PML-N’s Information Secretary Mushahidullah Khan said his party had welcomed the court verdict and Nawaz Sharif had asked the government to go ahead with the inquiry. “The PML-N never expressed any reservation over the court judgment but only criticised the FIA’s track record. But now my top leadership has clarified more than once that it is ready even for the FIA inquiry,” he said.

Another PML-N leader close to the leadership told Dawn that after a threadbare discussion by the party’s legal department it was decided to welcome the FIA inquiry. “Yes, initially we were a bit worried but after our lawyers’ clarification that the government has nothing to prove against the Sharif brothers against the background of the SC ruling the party decided to welcome the FIA-led inquiry,” he said.

A senior Supreme Court lawyer, who has been closely associated with the Asghar Khan case, said the PPP wanted to be on the right side of the army and, therefore, would try to avoid implementing the court judgment that had categorically held former army chief Gen Aslam Beg and ex-spymaster Lt Gen Asad Durrani as guilty of distributing money among the IJI leaders. If the government asked the FIA to start investigation against politicians it would have no other option but to also move against the retired generals, said the lawyer, who requested anonymity.

He said that in the absence of any documentary evidence and knowing the fact that the PPP lacks the guts to move against the retired generals, the PML-N had taken the right stand in accepting the FIA-led inquiry.

Moreover, the lawyer said, a major portion of the judgment was on the role of president, stressing the importance of an impartial head of the state.

After the court issued its short order in the case on Oct 19, Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf pledged at a press conference that his government would conduct an impartial inquiry as directed by the court.

On Oct 29, after a meeting of the federal cabinet Mr Kaira said the government was committed to holding the inquiry in accordance with the court judgment.