ISLAMABAD - The Apex Court’s order to probe the extent of involvement of two top former generals in a high profile case has once again raised the question if the government would stand up to take the guilty army men to task under civilian apparatus considering that a corruption case involving three ex-generals was taken up for ‘trial’ under Pakistan Army Act (PAA) in the recent past.

Issuing a milestone judgement in the Asghar Khan petition case on Friday, the Supreme Court of Pakistan smelled foul play on part of former Army Chief General (r) Mirza Aslam Baig and former Director General Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Lieutenant General (r) Asad Durrani to rig the 1990 general polls and get the late Benazir Bhutto-led Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) defeated.

“The acts of Aslam Baig 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 court had observed directing the federal government to take action in accordance with the provisions of law against the retired generals through Federal Investigation Agency (FIA).

Amidst strong criticism last month, Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR), the military’s mouthpiece, had announced ‘recalling’ three ex-generals, Lieutenant General (r) Khalid Munir Khan, Lieutenant General (r) Mohammad Afzal Muzzafar and Major General (r) Khalid Zaheer Akhtar, for initiating Court Martial proceedings against them through PAA instead of letting their trial under civilian accountability set-up. The retired officers were involved in a mega financial scam at National Logistics Cell (NLC). This earned enormous criticism from the public and political circles coupled with the prevalent feeling that the three high-profile former army men were being treated as ‘sacred cows.’

The legal fate of the two generals involved in Asghar Khan case, also known as Mehrangate scandal, does not appear to be different from the three ‘lucky ones’ being ‘tried’ under the military cover. In March this year, the Army Chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani had equated digging the 20-year old Mehrangate scandal with ‘fighting with history.’ “If you want to fight with history- it’s your choice to do so,” he had told the journalists at a gathering organised to bid farewell to the then outgoing Air Chief Rao Qamar Suleman.

The ISPR has so far not commented on the issue. This newspaper tried to approach Director General ISPR Major General Asim Saleem Bajwa at his cell for the military’s version over the trial of General (r) Aslam Baig and Lieutenant General (r) Asad Durrani but he did not respond.

A telephone operator at General (r) Aslam Baig’s residence said that the former army chief did not wish to speak on the issue. Lieutenant General (r) Asad Durrani also refused to comment, when contacted, and dropped the call.   

Talking to The Nation, Member National Assembly (MNA) and former Governor Balochistan Lieutenant General (r) Abdul Qadir Baloch said, Baig 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,” he said.

The former army officer said, the crimes committed by the two generals did not attract their trial under the military laws. “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.”    

Last month, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) was taken by surprise after having learnt that the General Headquarters (GHQ) had reinstated the three former bosses of the NLC, for conducting court martial proceedings against them. During the respective tenures of these generals, the NLC had taken bank loans exceeding 4.3 billion rupees in stark violation of rules that caused the NLC a huge loss of nearly two billion rupees.

The NLC had to pay a mark up payment of around three million rupees per day to the banks. The ISPR had ‘clarified’ that the three ex-army men were not ‘reinstated’ or ‘rehired’ but they were only ‘recalled.’