LAHORE - The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) will find it quite difficult to investigate the alleged public funds’ recipients who contested the 1990 elections from the platform of the defunct Islami Jamhoori Ittehad to defeat the PPP contestants and block Benazir Bhutto’s return to power.

The order for investigations was passed by the Supreme Court a few days ago on a petition filed by Air Marshal (retd) Asghar Khan some 16 years ago. The veteran politician, who always failed to channelise his once enviable popularity into votes, had alleged in the petition that public money had been given by intelligence agencies to various IJI leaders, a step which he said amounted to violation of the Constitution.

The court held Gen Aslam Beg and Lt Gen Asad Durrani guilty and ordered their trial.

Since Gen Hameed Gul has himself been proudly saying that he was the one who had formed the IJI, the government says that along with the two above-mentioned generals he too would be brought to justice.

Whether the political government is strong enough to bring the generals to dock, is a very serious question. However, the issue of the political recipients of the funds is quite interesting.

Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif has vehemently denied that he received money. “Neither anyone gave me, nor I received any money,” he said in an interview a few days ago.

The relatives of former caretaker prime minister Ghulam Mustafa Jatoi and Pir Pagara have also denied the charge.

A grandson of the late president Ghulam Ishaq Khan said it was strange that nobody had raised the issue during the lifetime of the bureaucrat-turned-politician. A columnist who claims he has been meeting the former president says that it is unbelievable that GIK committed any irregularity.

Senator Mir Hasil Bizenjo says his father had died much before the alleged funds were distributed to politicians or the IJI had been set up.

The Jamaat-i-Islami leaders have been consistently saying that they had not received any money from anyone and they had claimed this even in the Supreme Court.

Hence, Jhang’s Begum Abida Hussain is the only politician who confessed to receiving Rs 1 million in two equal installments. She said she had even given receipts to the man who brought the money.

If all leaders are to be believed for what they have said, then Begum Abida was the only leader who was supposed to work against the PPP candidates. And the total amount at her disposal for this huge task was only Rs 1 million, which too she had given to the man pointed out by then presidential aide Ijlal Haider Zaidi. Is it believable?

Could the return of Benazir Bhutto to power be prevented by just one woman and that too with such a small amount?

If the IJI had been set up for certain objectives, then the alliance leaders also would have been given enough resources to keep the PPP out of power.

Then ISI chief Gen Asad Durrani has given a list of leaders who had been given money. And Military Intelligence Sindh Chapter’s then boss Brig Hamid Saeed said in an interview that he personally gave money to a number of Sindhi leaders, including Muhammad Khan Junejo, Jam Sadiq Ali, Abdul Hafeez Pirzada, Pir Pagara and many others.

Since he was dealing with Sindhi leaders only, he did not have the list of recipients from other provinces. But Gen Durrani’s affidavit should provide the required information.

And if nobody had received the money, then the FIA would have to probe as to who had lined pockets with the remaining unaccounted for Rs 59 million. (Of the total Rs 140 million IJI fund, one million went to the leader from Jhang and 80 million deposited back in the secret fund of the ISI).

Although the PML-N leadership has said in clear terms that they will welcome a probe by the FIA, the matter is so complex that the agency is less likely to reach some conclusion before the next elections. And if such a serious matter is kept pending even when the elections are held, will the next government be able to deal with it fairly?

It will be challenging for the PPP government to have the matter investigated quickly and fairly so that it could not be exploited by anyone during the campaign for the upcoming polls.