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Asghar Khan case: The ugly truth about Pakistani politics

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News Analysis |

The former Army Chief General (r), Mirza Aslam Beg and Former Director General of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), Lt Gen (r) Asad Durrani appeared before the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) committee, which constituted to investigate the Asghar Khan case on Wednesday.

A committee was constituted to look into the Asghar Khan case on Tuesday. The members of the committee are Dr. Usman Anwar, Dr. Rizwan and the FIA Director Law, Ali Sher Jakhrani. The committee is being headed by Ahsan Sadiq, a grade 21 officer at the FIA. Mirza Aslam Beg and Asad Durrani have been questioned by the committee for their involvement in the distribution of money to politicians.

What is the Asghar Khan case?

In 1996, the retired Air Marshal, Asghar Khan filed a human rights petition in the Supreme Court of Pakistan and accused the spy agency ISI of distributing money during the 1990 elections to get desired outcomes. The case was initiated by the air marshal after Benazir Bhutto’s Interior Minister, retired Gen Naseerullah Babar disclosed, in the National Assembly in 1994, how the ISI had distributed money to purchase the loyalty of politicians, journalists and editors so as to manipulate the 1990 elections, form the Islami Jamhoori Ittehad (IJI), and affect the defeat of the PPP.

Benazir Bhutto’s government was targeted by the then opposition leader Nawaz Sharif who had an understanding with the top military leadership. He assured that he would be made the next Prime Minster after Benazir’s removal from the office.

In 1990, the PPP was in power and Benazir Bhutto was the Prime Minster of Pakistan. Just after 9 months of her election a vote of no confidence was brought against her. It is said that money was used by the ISI to bring the vote of no confidence against Benazir Bhutto and also to manage electrical very for Nawaz Sharif.

Read more: Legal skirmishes between PTI & PML-N government continue

Supreme Court of Pakistan gave Historic Verdict on October 19, 2012

A three-member bench comprising of the then Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, Justice Jawwad S Khawaja and Justice Khilji Arif Hussain gave a historic verdict in the Asghar Khan case on October 19, 2012, regarding the distribution of around Rs. 60 million among politicians (and other public figures). They contested the 1990 elections from the platform of the Islami Jamhoori Ittehad (IJI), which consisted of nine parties including the Pakistan Muslim League, National Peoples Party and Jamaat-e-Islami.

The Supreme Court of Pakistan declared the 1990 election rigged and ordered the FIA to initiate an inquiry against those who had given the money and those who had accepted the money.  The court also directed the Federal Government to take action against those involved in ‘unlawful’ practices within the bounds of the 1973 constitution.

Read more: “History was made: Decline of a Dynasty Televised Live”

FIA’s Initial Report

The FIA team led by the then Karachi Director Shahid Hayat, Punjab Director Dr. Usman Anwar and Islamabad Director Economic Crime Wing (ECW) Sardar Zaheer recorded statements of over a dozen and half accused.

They included the former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, former Army Chief Gen (retd) Mirza Aslam Beg, former ISI DG Lt-Gen (retd) Asad Durrani, the late Air Marshal (retd) Asghar Khan, former Chief Executive of the now defunct Mehran Bank Younis Habib, former ambassador to the US Syeda Abida Hussain, seasoned politician Javed Hashmi, former Punjab Governor Ghulam Mustafa Khar, Advocate Yousuf Memon, senior journalist Altaf Hassan Qureshi, National Bank of Pakistan Legal Division Head Raza Mohsin Qizilbash, Habib Bank Company Secretary Nosheen Ahmed, Allied Bank Limited Clifton Branch Karachi Banking Service Officer Shafiq Ahmed, UBL City Branch Karachi Customer Service Operation Manager Sarmad Faisal Abbasi, MCB Clifton Branch Karachi Manager Faisal Nisar, Advocate Muhammad Yousaf Memon, former Sindh Chief Minister Arbab Ghulam Rahim, Ghulam Ali Nizamani, Syed Muzaffar Hussain Shah and others.

Just after 9 months of her election a vote of no confidence was brought against her. It is said that money was used by the ISI to bring the vote of no confidence against Benazir Bhutto and also to manage electrical very for Nawaz Sharif.

All politicians vehemently rejected the ‘allegations’ except Abida Hussain who accepted her guilt during the course of the inquiry.

Read more: Remembering Air Marshal Asghar Khan

Confession of Lt. General Asad Durrani

Later on, during the course of inquiry, ISI head Lt. General Asad Durrani confessed that money was distrusted to buy loyalties of politicians to manage elections for Nawaz Sharif. He also submitted an affidavit, giving names of the politicians as well as journalists, editors and owners.

A confessional statement of the former ISI head made the case more interesting and very important in the history of Pakistan. Since his confession had surfaced, the FIA was more determined to further probe into the matter in order to punish those involved in this “illegal” activity.

Supreme Court one gave a week to the Government to Decide about Asghar Khan Case

On May 8, the Chief Justice (CJP) Mian Saqib Nisar gave the government a week’s time to call a special session of the Cabinet to determine what action will be taken against the former Army Chief, retired Gen Mirza Aslam Beg, and a former Director General (DG) of Inter-Services Intelligence, retired Lt Gen Asad Durrani, for rigging the 1990 elections against the PPP.

The FIA has made another committee after the dismissal of review petitions filed by Gen Beg and Lt Gen Asad Durrani by the apex court.

Read more: Reviewing Asghar Khan case is damaging for Nawaz Sharif only

Asghar Khan Case: Future of Nawaz Sharif and PM Abbasi

The Asghar Khan case reveals an unfortunate part of Pakistan’s political history. It shows how elections and loyalties are bought and people of ‘their’ own choice are given higher offices. This case reflects two points very clearly; firstly, it exposes the role of the spy agency in the political engineering of Pakistan’s political process. Secondly, this case also exposed military-civilian nexus against the civilians themselves. Benazir Bhutto’s government was targeted by the then opposition leader Nawaz Sharif who had an understanding with the top military leadership. He assured that he would be made the next Prime Minster after Benazir’s removal from the office.

A confessional statement of the former ISI head made the case more interesting and very important in the history of Pakistan. Since his confession had surfaced, the FIA was more determined to further probe into the matter in order to punish those involved in this “illegal” activity.

If this case is carried out to its logical conclusions, it has the potential to embarrass Nawaz who is currently a self-styled voice for democracy and rule of law in Pakistan. His tainted past and his ‘understanding’ with military generals to manage elections will further compromise his position and narrative in the present situation.

There is also a tough time ahead for PM Abbasi. If he fails to implement the order of the court, he may face ‘contempt of court’. Neither can he afford to face the court nor is he in a position to put Nawaz in an embarrassing situation. This case is forcing to be the most disturbing and complex matter for Abbasi’ government at the moment.


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