ISLAMABAD - No political cell can operate in the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), the Supreme Court declared on Monday while hearing the 13-year-old Asghar Khan Case.

A three-member bench asked the government to tell if there was still a political cell in the ISI, observing that no such unit can operate in the intelligence agency as per a July 31, 2009 judgment of the apex court.

The bench – headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry and comprising Justice Jawwad S Khawaja and Justice Khilji Arif Hussain – was hearing Air Marshal (r) Asghar Khan’s petition, alleging that the ISI rigged the 1990 elections by distributing millions of rupees among several politicians to harm Benazir Bhutto’s election campaign.

During the proceedings, the chief justice said that the judiciary wants to see all the institutions, including the Pakistan Army, strong and vibrant; but it will not allow strengthening of one institution at the cost of other. Bangladesh-like model cannot be allowed in Pakistan, he added.

It was not a good idea to strengthen the parliament by weakening the judiciary, the CJ went on to say in an obvious reference to the attempts being made by the government to make the judiciary toothless and claims that parliament was supreme. “There will be supremacy of the constitution alone in the country,” he made it clear, adding that there will be no compromise on matters of national importance.

The CJ remarked that it has been proven that money was distributed by the ISI among the politicians. He said that nobody has the right to ruin the government by using national funds. “We have encouraged democratic form of government that constitution provides (for),” the court’s order said.

During the hearing, the defence ministry and the cabinet division once again failed to produce notification about setting up of political cell in ISI. Attorney General Irfan Qadir pleaded the court to give some time so that he may get instructions from the government and submit written reply.

The court also asked attorney general that record shows that a copy of the notification regarding setting up of political cell in ISI was also handed over to the attorney general office. The AGP told the court that he will dig out the same and will also seek instructions from the government.

Granting him time until July 30, the court directed to make it abundantly clear to the prime minister and high-ups of the armed forces that this principle stands explicitly defined in July 31, 2009 and June 19, 2012, the disqualification of Yousuf Raza Gilani, rulings that now only those functions will be permissible which are absolutely in harmony with the constitution.

The court held that in this case on June 26, 1997 the then attorney general was questioned if the government wanted to abolish this cell in the ISI; however, no reply has been received so far. Irfan Qadir asked the bench whether it has been explicitly mentioned in the July 31 judgment that political cell could not operate in the ISI. The bench replied in affirmative.

Defence and Cabinet Division Secretary Nargis Sethi told that she tried her best to find out the notification, issued by her ministry, but she failed. She said it was not easy to trace the record as the issue was around 38 years old. She, however, assured that she would make another attempt by directing the officials of both sides (defence and cabinet ministries) to find the notification.

The court directed also Nargis Sethi to inform the court whether the defence ministry would represent the ISI and Military Intelligence (MI) in Asghar Khan Case or separate counsel will be appointed for the purpose. She replied that she would seek instruction from the government in this regard. The case was adjourned until July 30.

SC outlaws ISI political cell