ISLAMABAD – Commenting on the alleged distribution of money by the ISI in 1990 to arrange a ‘favourable’ civilian government, the Supreme Court Wednesday observed there was a need to make distinction whether it was an act of an individual or the institution.
A three-member bench, headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry and comprising Justice Khilji Arif Hussain, while hearing the Asghar Khan noted: “General (r) Aslam Beg in his concise statement had also taken the position of possessing knowledge of the distribution of money and maintaining the account by the ISI.”
“Inter alia, in the concise statement, one of the factors also mentioned that a full account was maintained and all the payments made by the then ISI director general, and no amount were misappropriated or misused,” it added.
The court directed Akram Sheikh, the counsel for General Beg, to furnish the details of account, as mentioned by the former army chief before the next hearing. The court also ordered NAB Additional Prosecutor General Mazhar Ali Chaudhry to collect the record in which Younus Habib had entered into plea bargain.
During the proceeding, the chief justice said: “Instead of constituting a commission for the return of money, the court could see what had been the role of army chief in the past.”
He appreciated the army’s efforts, in what it termed as rendering sacrifices for the defence and protection of citizens, said: “Thanks God! There is democracy in the country for the last four years and the credit goes to General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani.”
He said there was no threat to democracy in the country due to Kayani.
The counsel for Asghar Khan, Salman Akram Raja, said a senior journalist Hamid Mir had informed him that he was in possession of the said reports, adding that he could request him place the same on record.
Chief Justice Iftikhar directed him to take the reports from the noted media person and present it before the court.
Salman argued the court should decide whether the subordinates were bound to obey the unlawful order of a higher official, while this court again and again stated that a subordinate should follow only the lawful orders of his or her superiors. Justice Khilji said the discipline in army demanded that superiors’ orders must be followed and there would be problems if the soldiers started questioning whether an order given to them was lawful or illegal. “We, therefore, have to be careful and not to defame anyone.”
Justice Tariq Pervaiz remarked that the politicians like the army were also respectable for the court.
Akram Sheikh said his client had nothing to do with the disbursement of funds, as he only supervised the distribution of money as the army chief.
The chief justice questioned was it the job of an army chief, to which Sheikh pleaded that the court had to see the statement of Beg separately with other facts, as an army chief appearing before the court for the first time in the country’s history said that the political cell in ISI should be closed.
Justice Tariq Pervaiz said but on other hand a former PAF chief filed the petition, while the chief justice said a serving general of Rangers also appeared before the court in a case.
Salman Raja said Aslam Beg had given a statement that ISI opened various accounts for the distribution of funds. According to him, Roedad Khan and Ijlal Haider Zaidi were the members of the election cell established in the Presidency.
Akram Sheikh argued that besides a volatile situation, Aslam Beg did not promulgate martial law in the country and arranged for transferring power in accordance with the law.
The court said but he should have been mindful in case of distributing money to topple the political government. He should have said no to involve army in the dirty game, the chief justice added.
The court observed Asad Durrani, the then ISI head, had confessed that it was a matter of concern for senior army officers as Asghar Khan, Aslam Beg, Asad Durrani and Naseerullah Babar all belonged to the armed forces.
“People are giving statements in the media but nobody has approached the court.”
Justice Khilji questioned was the distribution of money also a responsibility of army, as a huge amount of Rs 140 million was distributed to manoeuvre the elections.
Attorney General Irfan Qadir said the reports of Mehran Bank and Habib Bank scandals had not been found in the Interior Ministry, except the report based on memory of the then director FIA Rehman Malik, the incumbent federal minister. But the court said such document was not acceptable under the law.
The attorney general assured the bench of making all-out efforts to trace out the said reports.
In compliance of court’s earlier order Naveeda Noor, Assistant Director (Legal) Intelligence Bureau (IB), submitted a sealed envelope containing the accounts of IB for the year 2008-09.
The move is a result of a news item published in an English daily that an amount of Rs.270 million was used by the IB for toppling the Punjab government.
On the request of the attorney general, who was ordered to produce the Mehran and Habib banks reports, the hearing was adjourned till May 10.