LAHORE - Former army chief Gen Mirza Aslam Beg says army officials, serving or retired, should be tried under the military rules in case they are accused of violating the Constitution or any other law - as is the practice in all civilised countries.

“There’s simply no justification for the ‘media trial’ of military officials as ‘our soldiers’ can’t tolerate humiliation of their superiors,” he said in an interview to TheNation and Nawa-i-Waqt here on Saturday.

He pointed out that at present as many as eight generals, including him, are facing trial.

The Supreme Court held Gen Beg and Gen Asad Durrani, a former head of the ISI, guilty of violating the Constitution for distributing ‘public money’ among politicians to manipulate the 1990 election results. The alleged recipients of money would be investigated by the FIA.

The former army chief said he would not go for a review of the apex court’s judgment.

Referring to the court’s assertion that what the ‘accused officials’ did was their individual act, not of the institutions they headed, Gen Beg said the president, the army chief and the chief justice represented their respective institutions and could not be separated from them.

Asked what could be the impact of the judgment on the political system, Gen Beg said it would add to the political turmoil. He said there was unrest among the people and there were rumours that a Bangladesh Model system could be enforced in the country. In case the rumours turned into reality, “nobody knows what will happen next”.

He said: “One doesn’t know who will come after Gen Kayani and how he will use the stick.”

He said nobody should forget that the United States always feels more comfortable to deal with one person instead of a whole elected parliament, and that one individual always happens to be a military man.

He did not agree with the suggestion that such a scenario was out of the question after the victory of President Obama for another term.

“There’s no change in the US mindset,” he said, adding policy about Pakistan would remain unchanged, no matter whether the Democrats were in power or the Republicans.

He advised caution to all stakeholders to save the country from some fresh crisis.

In his opinion, the case against all those identified in the Asghar Khan case judgment would be dragged, as a result of which leaders like Nawaz Sharif and others would not be eligible to take part in the elections. And since a number of important leaders would stay out of the arena, unrest among their parties grow, he feared.

Regarding the objection as to why in his capacity as army chief he had failed to stop the relevant people from using the public money, Gen Beg argued that he was not in a position to do that. According to him, the orders had been given by an elected president (Ghulam Ishaq Khan) who was authorised to use the ISI for political objectives in the light of a 1975 notification issued by then prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.

“I was not in a position to say no to him.”

Gen Beg said it was his conscious decision to obey the president.

He recalled that former chief justices Saeeduz Zaman Siddiqui and Syed Sajjad Ali Shah had ordered in their respective tenures that the notification about the establishment of the political cell in the ISI should be withdrawn so that the cell was wound up. The notification had also been shown to Justice Siddiqui.

However, he said now the notification was missing from the record, which was a conspiracy to hold the president responsible for the ISI acts and indulgence of the army leadership in politics.

He said the order about the use of public money had been issued by president Ghulam Ishaq Khan to the ISI, not him (COAS) and the ISI had only carried out the president’s instructions.

Answering a question, Gen Beg said Gem Asad Durrani was coerced to sign the declaration against him. Also, he said Gen Durrani had said in a communication that the PPP leadership seemed determined to put Gen Beg on the mat and give the opposition parties a serious rubbing.

According to him, the Mehran Bank records were not produced before the court because the list of the recipients was bogus and the money involved had nothing to do with the public exchequer.

He said it was significant that an earlier statement made by then interior minister Gen Naseerullah Babar was also missing from the records. Gen Babar, he recalled, had said that the money had been given only to Sindhi and Balochi leaders, after which he was at a loss to understand how the names of Punjabi and KPK leaders were included therein.

Replying to a question, Gen Beg said the SC judgment would have far-reaching consequences for the army men. He said earlier the subordinates were supposed to carry out the orders of their seniors even at the peril of their lives. But now, he said the juniors could call for a justification for their orders and refuse to implement them on the plea that they would not like to put their lives at risk.