ISLAMABAD - The two retired generals involved in Asghar Khan case could only be tried under Pakistan Army Act (PAA) had the Supreme Court of Pakistan not directed the government for proceeding against the accused through Federal Investigation Agency (FIA).

According to informed military sources, the existing army rules allow for the trial of former Army Chief General (Retd) Mirza Aslam Beg and former Director General Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Lieutenant General (Retd) Asad Durrani under the PAA. But in the light of Apex Court’s verdict on Asghar Khan case, the said individuals cannot be put to trial outside the court order.

“The acts of Aslam Beg and Asad Durrani have brought a bad name to Pakistan and its Armed Forces as well as secret agencies in the eyes of the nation,” the SC had observed in its October 19 verdict while unequivocally providing for the retired generals trial by FIA, for their alleged involvement in bribing the politicians to rig the 1990 general elections.

Aslam Beg has publicly demanded that his trial be conducted under the PAA while showing mistrust on the FIA saying that the Apex Court has repeatedly reprimanded the Federal Investigation Agency for its lack of credibility.

In another instance, a statement from the military’s mouthpiece Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) had defended the Chief of Army Staff Ashfaq Parvez Kayani’s decision to try three retired generals involved in a mega corruption scam at National Logistics Cell (NLC) under the PAA. “(The) COAS as a prescribed officer (PAA Section 94 and Criminal Procedure (Military Offenders) Rules 1970) had to decide whether to proceed against the accused under PAA or through a civil court/NAB (National Accountability Bureau). The COAS decided to proceed under PAA,” the statement issued September 14 this year had read. It stated that the former generals Khalid Munir Khan, Afzal Muzaffar and Khalid Zaheer Akhtar were ‘recalled’ for their trial under the military laws.

Requesting anonymity, a retired general said, both the cases; Asghar Khan and NLC corruption, involve breach of public interest committed at the time when the army officers involved were serving in the military. “The NLC case involves corruption in public funds while Asghar Khan case involves political interference to influence public will. In either case, public interest is breached and that too when the officers were in uniform. This attracts application of PAA,” he said.  The alleged rigging ahead of the 1990 general polls had resulted in the defeat of the late Benazir Bhutto-led Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) then.

On the other hand, amidst the deeply prevalent feeling that the military does not want its former men to be tried under the civilian set-up, the calls for trying the generals under FIA or NAB keep echoing loud.

In a conversation with this scribe sometime back, former Governor Balochistan Lieutenant General (r) Abdul Qadir Baloch had said, Beg and Durrani should be tried under the civilian apparatus as ordered by the SC. “Once the nature of their crimes is ascertained and responsibility is fixed, they should be proceeded against in the civilian accountability set-up. Nobody is above the law. There is no point in pulling them off the hook by getting them wear army uniform for military trial. Their crimes pertain to interference in the political arrangement that does not attract trial under military laws. Like any ordinary citizen of Pakistan, they should be held accountable under civilian laws,” he had said referring to certain cases of former army officers under civilian laws.

Trying the former generals under civilian apparatus has not gone well with the military leadership as reflected in a recent statement from General Kayani that is looked to have impliedly referred to judiciary. “No individual or institution has the monopoly to decide what is right or wrong in defining the ultimate national interest,” he had said a few days ago.

The military first spoke its mind on Asghar Khan case in March this year when Gen Kayani had termed digging the 20-year old case as ‘fighting with history.’ “If you want to fight with history- it’s your choice to do so,” he had told the journalists at an official gathering then.

Including the five ex-generals respectively involved in Asghar Khan and NLC cases, nine former generals are facing serious allegations of meddling into political process or financial corruption and are facing inquiries accordingly. The remaining four retired generals are: Lieutenant General (r) Javed Ashraf Qazi, former Secretary Defence Lieutenant General (r) Naeem Khalid Lodhi, Lieutenant General (r) Saeeduz Zafar, and Major General (r) Hamid Hassan Butt.

Last month, the NAB had summoned Javed Ashraf Qazi, Saeeduz Zafar and Hamid Hassan Butt in a mega land scam at Pakistan Railways. The accountability bureau had also sought explanation from Naeem Khalid Lodhi, the incumbent Managing Director at Fauji Fertilizer Company (FFC), in connection with funds irregularities at the FFC.