LAHORE - After dismissal of the review petitions filed by former COAS Gen Mirza Aslam Beg and ex-ISI boss Lt-Gen (r) Asad Durrani, the government has no escape from implementing the apex court’s decision in the late Air Marshal Asghar Khan case.

A close look of the Supreme Court decision of October 2012 says it has been established that the 1990 elections were influenced through an election cell set up in the Presidency during late Ghulam Ishaq Khan’s era and it was aided by Gen Beg and Lt-Gen (r) Durrani. And now it is the question of fixing responsibility as to who contributed to what extent to this whole act which has been discouraged strongly through the court verdict.

Without prejudice to investigations and the ensuing trial, one can see that politicians under Nawaz Sharif-led IJI were beneficiaries to reach the power corridors.

The Supreme Court directed the government to decide within a week on the forum of trial against the two ex-generals. The SC also directed the FIA to investigate the remaining persons’ direct or indirect role in the formation of the Islamic Jamhoori Ittehad (IJI) to defeat the PPP in the elections. Both the said generals were serving officers in 1990, so the question is whether they are to be tried by the military court under the Army Act or a regular court since the issue arose at a time when they had retired from the army. Previously, both were heard by the FIA about the charges against them and they had ruled out anything by them which was unlawful or did not meet the parameters of law.

There are another 30 politicians, bankers and media men who were either recipients of the money or facilitators in the formation of the IJI. They all have so far denied the allegations. The main character in the whole episode, former President Ghulam Ishaq Khan, is no more in this world. The petitioner has not enlisted Ishaq Khan in the respondents and has substantiated his case through large documentary evidence.

The issue now necessitates to be taken to its logical end; first at the investigation stage and then the court of law.

When questions relating to the future course of the case were put before jurists, they overwhelmingly held the view that it will largely depend on the stance of the said generals in the investigations. According to them, the Supreme Court decision in the main case in October 2012 has held President Ghulam Ishaq Khan, General Mirza Aslam Beg and Let Gen (r) Asad Durrani responsible for manipulating the elections 1990. And prima facie they have been held equally responsible for corrupting these elections. However, the army officers plead their innocence. According to media reports, they adopt the stance that even if anything was attributed to them about operating the election cell, it could only be called as done in obedience to the President’s order who was then very powerful and held commanding authority over the institutions. Therefore, the jurists say it depends on how they shift the onus to the late president and his motive behind forming the IJI when they will be quizzed at the stage of investigation.

Former Supreme Court Bar Association president and senior lawyer, Abid Hassan Minto, says the alleged act of the former army officers is of civilian nature, so the matter will be taken up at the civil side and that too if any case is framed, otherwise it will be closed. As to liability of the alleged offence going to others, he said it will also be determined through the FIA probe and any guesswork at this stage will serve no purpose.

It may be mentioned that Pervez Musharraf is being tried by a special tribunal of the high court judges for high-treason charges emanating from the November 3, 2007, PCO and the state of emergency he had clamped. Musharraf too was serving as the army chief when he took the step. The high-treason trial against Musharraf was started some four years ago, but it has not som far been finalised.

The sitting government has one week to decide on the trial of the two former generals although it may be for the interim government to decide about the rest 30 if the FIA took time to complete probe by the end of the PML-N government’s tenure.

Senior advocate and former SCBA President Barrister Ali Zafar views that the case will be closed. He also says the matter to the extent of the former generals will be closed if FIA fails to complete the probe within the given one week. Barrister Ali Zafar adds if acceptance of money by Nawaz Sharif or his brother Shehbaz Sharif is established by any means, their slogan for ‘vote ko izzat do’ will be vitiated owing to what they themselves did in 1990 to check the PPP way.

Observers say it will be a test case for the political government to put such important military personnel on trial, especially when the leaders of the ruling party are passing through a difficult situation. The task becomes more challenging as the civilian leadership wants supremacy over all other institutions.