Asghar Khan Case: SC orders action against Beg, Durrani
19 October, 2012
ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court of Pakistan (SC), while announcing the verdict of Asghar Khan case, has declared the petition maintainable while it ordered the government to take action against Aslam Beg and Asad Durrani Friday, our sources reported.
A three-member bench of the apex court headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry resumed hearing in the petition filed by Air Marshal (retd) Asghar Khan in 1996, accusing the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) of distributing money among politicians to manipulate the general elections of 1990.
The SC, in its short order, stated that as per the Constitution, the state can exercise its authority through its elected representatives.
During today's proceedings, the Chief Justice remarked that according to the Constitution, the president holds the most significant office and he is the head of the state, and not the prime minister.
He further contended that the court will continue to support the democratic process and will not allow anyone to derail the democracy.
The Chief Justice said that the president cannot set up an election office and he should be a neutral person.
While presenting his arguments, Attorney General Irfan Qadir said that a deceased president cannot be put on trial.
The Chief Justice remarked that the Constitution regulated president's office as it is the symbol of federation. It is not the duty of a president to influence elections. Only an unbiased president can be a symbol of federation.
The AG has completed his arguments in today's hearing while the court has reserved its verdict till 12:30 pm.
The counsel for former army chief Gen (retd) Mirza Aslam Beg in the Asghar Khan case on Thursday said that the SC should direct the Ministry of Defence to administer a fresh oath to the three services chiefs and the entire military top brass.
Concluding his submissions, Akram Sheikh, the counsel for Gen (retd) Aslam Beg, submitted the background of adding Article 6 of the Constitution and the corresponding change in the oath of military officers.
Sheikh told the court that on account of participation in politics by military officers, Pakistan had faced the unfortunate Dhaka debacle and as a consequence of the Hamood-ur-Rahman Commission's report and recommendations, Article 6 & 244 were added to the 1973 Constitution which provided that no military officer shall participate in political activities. Article 6 deals with abrogation and subversion of the Constitution with penalties to be visited thereafter, he added.
The counsel pointed out that Mirza Aslam Beg had not taken oath under the 1973 Constitution and instead took oath in August 1952 under the Indian Army Act of 1911 amended as Indian Army Act 1950 for Pakistan, which did not prohibit the participation in political activities.
Sheikh also submitted that Gen Beg had not participated in any political activity. He handed over the power under the 1973 Constitution to Ghulam Ishaq Khan within three hours of the plane crash of Ziaul Haq and carried out the orders of civilian authorities (supreme commander) strictly in the spirit of military discipline. He refuted any allegation of misappropriation of public funds directly or indirectly or having any other hand in disbursement of funds as asserted by Air Marshal (R) Asghar Ali Khan in his “casual petition”.
Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry said that it was also binding on armed forces to adhere to the Constitution like judges and elected government. He said that every citizen of the country should abide by the Constitution and bestowal of a medal upon anyone made no difference.
The chief justice passed these remarks when Akram Sheikh Advocate said that his client, Gen (R) Mirza Aslam Beg, had controlled the situation in the country on August 17, 1988 and the PPP government had awarded him Tamgha-e-Jamhooriat.
The Ministry of Defence and a former Military Intelligence (MI) official, in the meantime, submitted their written replies to the SC pertaining to the distribution of Rs80 million while Director Legal at the Ministry of Defence Commander Shahbaz submitted details of the ISI accounts.
The chief justice, however, observed that the court did not require the details provided in the reply. Justice Jawwad S Khawaja noted that nothing was specifically revealed about the distribution of Rs80 million.
Commander Shahbaz told the court that an amount of Rs30 million was to be given to Gen (R) Aslam Beg's organisation, Friends, in 1990. He said that General Asif Nawaz Janjua had, however, objected to it, so the money was not disbursed. He said the investigations were carried out in the past but their outcome was not known.
Appearing before the court, Attorney General Irfan Qadir submitted that the information about the distribution of Rs80 million should be kept classified. At this, the chief justice said other information in the case was also secret and could not be discussed publicly so such details should be produced in a sealed envelope.
Appearing on notice, former MI officer Brig (R) Hamid Saeed, who was blamed by Asghar Khan for distributing the fund, submitted his written response along with his 21-year-old diary. He said the diary contains details pertaining to the funds distribution and transaction of many accounts.
To a court query, Hamid Saeed said he had been appointed as MI chief in Sindh ahead of 1990 elections and he served in the position for 16 months, even after the holding of elections. The court said information produced by Saeed was not being made public, excluding paragraph 9 and 12 of his written statement concerning the case. It said that paragraphs 1 to 8 would not be made public at the moment.
During the course of hearing, Malik Asif Hayat, secretary to the president, submitted a new report about the presence of ISI cell in the Presidency. The report stated that no record about any political cell in 1990 could be recovered from the Presidency.
Akram Sheikh, counsel for Gen (R) Aslam Beg, prayed the court to order the introduction of reforms in the armed forces. He said the ISI should be brought under the discipline of the army and notification for keeping it under the chief executive should be annulled.
The chief justice, however, told the learned counsel that it was not the job of the court. He said that Aslam Beg had been army chief from 1988 to 1991 and he could have told President Ishaq Khan that he would not become a party to the distribution of money.
The chief justice said that Beg should have resisted President Ishaq's move. “It was only your client who could have brought any change,” he told Sheikh.