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Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Supreme Court authorizes in-camera briefing for Asghar Khan case

News Analysis |

Pakistan’s top court on Tuesday, 25th September accepted a request by the Federal Investigation Agency for an in-camera briefing in the infamous 2012 Asghar Khan case that had been initiated decades ago by the recently deceased former Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal ® Asghar Khan.

As the hearing went underway, FIA Director General Bashir Memon submitted a request for an in-camera briefing. “There are some facts pertaining to the case which we want to tell the court separately,” Memon said. The court took up the verdict after it was briefed that a court of inquiry had already been constituted by the defense authorities.

The defense ministry had asked the FIA to furnish army numbers of these officers since it was not possible for them to identify these officers without this information, a report furnished by the FIA said.

Additional Attorney Gen­eral Nayyar Abbas Rizvi informed a three-judge Supreme Court bench headed by Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar that an officer of the rank of lieutenant general had been appointed the president of the court of inquiry for the probe into the alleged involvement of military officers in the distribution of funds to politicians during the 1990 general elections. Nayyar Rizvi informed the court that communication had also been established with the FIA to provide assistance when required.

Late Air Marshal ® Asghar Khan had petitioned the Supreme Court in 1996 alleging that the two senior army officers and the then-president Ghulam Ishaq Khan had doled out Rs140 million among several politicians ahead of the 1990 polls to ensure Benazir Bhutto’s defeat in the polls. The Islamic Jamhoori Ittehad (IJI) comprising nine parties, including the Pakistan Muslim League, National Peoples Party and Jamaat-e-Islami, had won the 1990 elections, with Nawaz Sharif elected prime minister.

Read more: Nawaz Sharif finally submits a reply to SC in Asghar Khan…

The alliance had been formed to oppose the Benazir Bhutto-led Pakistan People’s Party. At the latest hearing on Aug 15th, the apex court had warned that it would summon senior military authorities in the scenario as the defense ministry showed no progress in implementing the Oct 19, 2012 verdict on the case. Federal Investigation Age­ncy Director Gen­er­al Bashir Memon sought in-camera audience which the chief justice accepted and said the court registrar would inform him when the briefing would be held with the MOD officials.

The Islamic Jamhoori Ittehad (IJI) comprising nine parties, including the Pakistan Muslim League, National Peoples Party and Jamaat-e-Islami, had won the 1990 elections, with Nawaz Sharif elected prime minister.

In chronological order, on May 7th, the Supreme Court bench had rejected the 2012 petitions filed by former army chief retired Gen Mirza Aslam Beg and former Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) director general retired Lt Gen Asad Durrani seeking review of the judgment, ordering the federal government to initiate necessary action against them for their role in dishing out Rs140 million to a particular group of politicians, including former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, during the 1990 elections, as alleged by the former Air Chief.

Read more: Asghar Khan case: The ugly truth about Pakistani politics

In response to the petition, Lt Gen Durrani, who is currently facing an inquiry at the General Headquarters for recently co-authoring a book with a former RAW spearhead, submitted an affidavit giving details of the amount he had authorized on the alleged directive of Gen Aslam Baig. On May 9th, the court had asked the then federal government to decide the fate of the Asghar Khan case and was informed in June about a decision of the last cabinet that references against the former military officials would be sent to the army authorities and those against the politicians to the FIA.

At the final hearing, the FIA director general had told the apex court that the agency had asked for some record from the defense ministry that could lead to the whereabouts and contact information of five intelligence officials sought for the case: retired Brig Amanullah Khan, retired Lt Col Eqbal Saeed Khan, retired Lt Col Ejaz, retired Lt Col Mir Akbar Khan and retired Lt Col Salman Butt, for their role in the dispersal of the funds.

In response, the defense ministry had asked the FIA to furnish army numbers of these officers since it was not possible for them to identify these officers without this information, a report furnished by the FIA said.