ISLAMABAD - The Supreme Court on Wednesday issued notices to former ISI DG Lt-Gen Asad Durrani, the defence ministry and dissolved Mehran Bank’s chief executive Younis Habib directing them to file their replies by March 8.
A three-member bench comprising Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, Justice Khilji Arif Hussain and Justice Tariq Parvez, hearing Asghar Khan petition also directed its office to trace out the 1998 record of the case pertaining to the statements of former army chief General Mirza Aslam Beg, interior minister Naseerullah Babar and Asad Durrani, and produce it in sealed envelope on the next hearing.
The hearing on Air Marshal (r) Asghar Khan petition, which he filed some 16 years ago against distribution of million of rupees by the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) among the anti-PPP politicians to manoeuvre 1990 election, resumed after the gap of 13 years.
The chief justice said this case is of very sensitive nature and requires transparency therefore the proceedings of it would be held in open court. He said the case would be decided in accordance with the constitution and law and they would not allow anyone to influence the case proceedings.
The court noted that the presence of Asad Durrani during the case proceedings was imperative and directed the office to trace out the postal address of Mehran Bank’s chief executive Younis Habib so that notice should also be issued to him as well. The court noted that the statements of Mirza Aslam Beg, Asad Durrani and Naseerullah Babar had been recorded in camera, but the same were not available on the present record. The court also noted that according to May 27, 1998 order sheet, sealed cover report had been submitted on the working of ISI, and that also be made available to the bench on next hearing.
Attorney General Maulvi Anwarul Haq informed the court that no one had contacted him on behalf of the defence ministry. The court noted that in a perusal of the record revealed that on June 25, 1998, a letter was addressed to SC registrar mentioning that since the defence ministry governs the Directorate General of ISI, thus it (ministry) be informed about the dates of hearing as and when fixed.
The last hearing of the case had taken place in 1996, in which former Army Chief Mirza Aslam Beg and former ISI chief Asad Durrani had admitted distribution of Rs140 million to engineer 1990 election, however they had not produced before the court any evidence about the money disbursed by them to anti-PPP politicians, political parties and journalists.
Akram Sheikh, counsel for Asad Durrani, informed the court that his client was visiting Colombo and would not be able to come back till March 5 or 6. Earlier, Akram Sheikh had represented Aslam Beg in the case when it was being heard by an SC bench headed by Justice Saeeduz Zaman Siddiqui in May 1999. That bench had reserved its judgment in the matter.
The court observed that the affidavit of the Asad Durrani that he had submitted earlier at the court was very important which states that the case not only involves two former top generals but also a number of key politicians and important players in the present political and media chessboard of the country.
The court noted that receiving of notice to Asad Durrani could not be ensured due to change of his available address. Salman Akram Raja, counsel for Asghar Khan, apprised the court that the statement of Asad Durrani was origin of the case. He said it was a matter of illegal meddling in the democratic process.
During the hearing, a June 16, 1996 letter of Asghar Khan addressed to former chief justice of Pakistan Sajjad Ali Shah was also read out on the court orders. According to the letter, the then army chief Aslam Beg withdrew Rs150 million from Mehran Bank and used this money to doctor 1990 election.
The letter said the money was distributed among anti-PPP politicians and others. It detailed that Lt-Gen Rafaqat got Rs5.6 million for distribution among journalists; Nawaz Sharif got Rs3.5 million; Mir Afzal Khan Rs10 million; Abida Hussain Rs1 million; Jamat-i-Islami Rs5 million; Altaf Hussain Qureshi Rs500,000; Ghulam Mustafa Jatoi Rs5 million (Sindh); Jam Sadiq Rs5 million (Sindh); Muhammad Khan Junejo Rs250,000 (Sindh); Pir Pagara Rs2 million (Sindh); Maulana Salahuddin Rs300,000 (Sindh); different small groups in Sindh Rs5.4 million and; Humayun Marri Rs1.5 million (Balochistan).
The chief justice noted that the letter also contained the names of Bazenjo and Kakar tribes and inquired as to who were the beneficiaries of these tribes. Salman Akram Raja stated that Asad Durrani had also submitted three documents along with his affidavit. The chief justice then noted that presence of Asad Durrani was imperative in the matter.
To a court query, Akram Sheikh stated that Asad Durrani had many times appeared before the court in this case. He said the statements of Aslam Beg and Naseerullah Babar were also available on the court record and they had also been cross examined.
“We want to examine this case in accordance with the law”, the chief justice observed. He said the whole record of the case would have to be examined and the previous order sheets would also have to be procured. He said the case record will be provided to all the parties concerned. Later, the court adjourned further proceedings until March 8.