ISLAMABAD - The defence ministry of the PPP government Wednesday denied the existence of political cell in the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI), but the Supreme Court demanded the statement should be signed by the defence secretary.

A three-member bench headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry was hearing the Asghar Khan petition, in which he has alleged that the ISI financed politicians in the 1990 elections by dishing out Rs140 million to create the Islami Jamhoori Ittehad (IJI) and prevent Benazir Bhutto’s PPP from winning the polls.

At the outset of the hearing, Defence Ministry Director (Legal) Commander Shahbaz, in the pursuance of a court order, submitted reply on behalf of the ministry stating that no political cell was in operation in the ISI. He told the bench that the defence ministry had gotten it confirmed from the intelligence agency before submitting its response.

At this, the chief justice directed him to submit the statement relating to non-existence of political cell in the ISI after getting it duly signed by the defence secretary. The chief justice cited a letter which he said was submitted before the court on June 26, 1997 stating that a political cell was functioning within the ISI.

During the hearing the chief justice remarked that they would pass a judgment in the case, but he wondered if the executive would implement it or not. He said they had passed judgments in the cases of Steel Mills, Ogra chairman and Rental Power Projects but those were not complied with fully. Addressing Salman Akram Raja, counsel for Asghar Khan, the chief justice remarked: “You and we agree that the whole nation is concerned at the way the authorities were playing with their fate.”

Arguing the case, Akram Raja read the affidavits of Lt-Gen (r) Asad Durrani, Gen (r) Mirza Aslam Beg, Younis Habib and Gen (r) Naseerullah Babar and some previous orders of the SC, passed since 1997. He contended that distribution of funds, among politicians, through agencies was an illegal act.

No authority is bound to follow the illegal orders, the counsel said, questioning that if tomorrow 111 Brigade sieges the Prime Minister House, should he obey any illegal order? On this, the chief justice remarked that it was actually the Chief Justice House that was encircled at the time the counsel was referring to.

The counsel prayed to the court to pass an order that disobeying illegal orders should not be considered unlawful acts. Raja further said that in 1942, the then Air Force commander ordered Asghar Khan to bombard the Hurs caravan. He said the retired air chief did flew his plane but when he saw that instead of armed men there were women and children in that caravan he refused to obey the order.

Moreover, he said that the culprits who commit a crime even in distant past must not be spared as there was no time limit to punish the culprits. In Turkey, many army generals, who committed crime in 1980s, were sentenced recently. The chief justice said that they have read in the newspapers that three retired generals of NLC, who were involved in Isaf containers scam, were reinstated for departmental disciplinary actions against them.

The court expressing annoyance over the absence of interior and defence secretaries, summoned them. The chief justice said neither the secretaries nor their counsels, and not even the attorney general is present in the court, which shows the level of interest of the federation in this case. He remarked that the defence ministry was not taking the matter seriously enough, adding that the ministry did not understand what it meant to appear before a court.

After the court break, Commander Shahbaz apprised the bench that Defence Secretary Lt-Gen retired Asif Yasin Malik was on a visit to new airport at Fateh Jhang Road. The chief justice inquired from Commander Shahbaz as to who was representing the ministry. He said since 1997 the attorney general was representing the ministry.

But Deputy Attorney General Dil Muhammad Alizai, who appeared on behalf of Attorney General Irfan Qadir, said the AG was not representing the ministry. The court, however, stopped Mr Alizai from representing the attorney general, saying the AG was on court notice. Later, the bench adjourned hearing of the case until today (Thursday).

During the proceeding, Raja alleged that ISI had disbursed money for political purpose and ISI officials breached their oaths. On this, the chief justice observed there must be evidence that who received the money for the political operation. Giving breakup of the alleged disbursed amount, the learned counsel told the bench that out of Rs140 million around Rs60 million were distributed among politicians whereas remaining amount of Rs80million was deposited in the account of the ISI.

PPP govt denies ISI political cell existence