Asghar Khan case: Politicians off the hook if generals not tried
31 October, 2012
LAHORE: Politicians accused in Asghar Khan case of accepting money doled out to them by the convicts in the same case seem convinced of not much damage to their political position as the matter will only boomerang if the retired generals are tried for confessing to bribe several politicians in 1990 general elections.
The PPP-led coalition government considered to be too weak to handle the case that involves retired generals and said to be waiting for a signal from the General Headquarters (GHQ) for any action against Gen (r) Mirza Aslam Beg and former ISI chief Lt Gen (r) Asad Durrani. The mantra that a detailed order awaited to take action according to the judgement holds no weight in view of legal experts as, they said, even a short order was sufficient to initiate preliminary proceedings against the two generals for the crime.
On the part of the convicts, at least one of them, Gen Beg, required stated support from the GHQ as he was in more troubled waters than Gen Durrani, who is taking the shield of obeying to the command of the high-ups.
In view of the legal experts the point that will come up for discussion is the obligation of following orders even if holds no or little legal validity.
Gen Beg, on his part appeared to be very confused and found brow beating in a mindset he always remained even after retirement from the post of chief of army staff next to none in a country reeling since its creation under the hegemony of the military top brass. No law hinders prosecution of Gen Beg under Article 6 of the constitution as per the landmark SC verdict in Asghar Khan case except the supra-constitutional means always applied to the cases involving generals in the National Logistics Cell (NLC) case only a recent happening wherein three generals had been called back to duty for a court martial. And the same law applies on Gen Durrani convicted apparently for his abetment in the dirty game of manipulation of people's verdict in favour of a so-called alliance of nine parties in the pocket of the establishment.
Taking advantage of the ruling PPP's fixation over the question of trying retired generals, the PML-N - the party which remained hitherto on the receiving end soon after the pronouncement of the judgment - appeared to have come much out of troubled waters by further muddying the reputation of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA).
The PML-N, which is now portraying the initial defensive position as a political strategy to control the damage caused by the SC verdict, had in fact been beating about the bush over the matter, party sources say.
The response to the verdict from opposition leader in the National Assembly Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan and Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, though hawkish yet well considered until the tables turned on them by the expert opinion of independent legal experts and a vociferous reaction from arch-political rivals, the PPP and the PTI.
The hawks in the PML-N still consider offence as best defence against a weak political government, which carries no wind in its sails to go ahead with the trial of retired generals against the wishes of the top army brass.
However, the PML-N leadership ultimately reverted to the advice of the said to be the doves in the party to stick to the policy of not confronting the judiciary come what may for the larger political interests of the party.
Sources said the PML-N was not a party that liked the pro-active role of the present judiciary but for political expediency always submitted before it at the cost of little damages over a greater political mileage it had been receiving by keeping the PPP on the receiving end of the 'independent judiciary'.
They said further the party also does not want the annoyance of the judiciary in the presence of a party - the PTI of Imran Khan - considered to be not just close to the establishment but the judiciary as well.
The PML-N leadership believed that Asghar Khan case was taken up for hearing after 16 years only at the passionate call of PTI chief Imran Khan and not in love for the PPP or to help it to be seen as a victim party before an around the corner general election. Sources also said the initial tirade of Chaudhry Nisar and Shahbaz Sharif though spontaneous but did help the party to create a smokescreen over the impartiality of the FIA under a government largely maligned for massive corruption in four and half years term.
The investigations against Nawaz Sharif and Shahbaz Sharif on charges of taking money from the ISI before 1990 general elections by the FIA would take months if not years and the subsequent proceedings before a trial court would be a lengthy process too given the structure of the judiciary and the prevalent anti-corruption laws.
In the presence of the most favourable conditions such as initiation of a trial against party leader after the trial of military generals and the lengthy court proceedings, it was considered wise on the part of the PML-N leadership to join the investigation rather than shying away from it.
It was a calculated move by the PML-N to reap the political harvest by submitting before the course of law than to stay away from it to help the detractors to create an impression about the existence of a fishy matter, maintained the party sources.