Thursday, 09 July, 2020
FIA advises apex court to close Asghar Khan case

FIA advises apex court to close Asghar Khan case

The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) has suggested that the Supreme Court close the case relating to the implementation of the landmark 2012 Asghar Khan verdict for want of concrete evidence.

A report furnished before the Supreme Court by the FIA stated that the authorities did not have enough evidence to launch a criminal prosecution against the individuals named in the judgement.

A two-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar is expected to resume the hearing of the implementation of the Asghar Khan case on Monday.

A source privy to the development told Dawn that the FIA in its report contended that the statements of witnesses recorded so far had gaps and did not co-relate with each other. Moreover, the investigation agency has also remained unsuccessful in securing financial records from the relevant banks since the matter is very old.

At the last hearing on Sept 25, the Supreme Court was told that the defence authorities had constituted a court of inquiry headed by an officer of the rank of lieutenant general to conduct an inquiry into alleged involvement of military officers in the distribution of funds among politicians during the 1990 general elections.

On May 7, the bench had rejected the 2012 petitions by former army chief retired Gen Mirza Aslam Beg and former director general of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) retired Lt Gen Asad Durrani to review the Oct 19, 2012 apex court verdict in which it had ordered the federal government to initiate necessary action against Aslam Beg and Asad Durrani for their role in dishing out Rs140 million to a particular group of politicians, including former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, during the 1990 elections. The verdict had been issued on a petition by the late chief air marshal Asghar Khan.

In 1996 Asghar Khan, who formed Tehreek-i-Istiqlal after retirement, filed the petition before the Supreme Court, requesting it to look into the allegations that the ISI financed many politicians in the 1990 elections by dishing out Rs140m.

In response to the petition, former ISI DG Durrani submitted an affidavit giving details of the amount he authorised on the alleged directive of former army chief Beg to be paid to a number of politicians. Nawaz Sharif’s name also featured among the recipients of the funds.

On May 9, the court asked the then federal government to decide about the fate of the Asghar Khan case and was later told in June about the recent decision of the last cabinet that references against the former military officials would be sent to the army authorities and those against the politicians to the FIA.

Earlier FIA director general Bashir Memon told the apex court that the agency had asked for some record from the defence ministry relating to whereabouts and contact information of five former intelligence officials — retired Brig Amanullah Khan, retired Lt Col Eqbal Saeed Khan, retired Lt Col Ejaz, retired Lt Col Mir Akbar Khan and retired Lt Col Salman Butt — due to their role in the disbursement of the funds.

In response, the defence ministry had asked the FIA to furnish Army numbers of these officers since it was not possible for them to identify these officers without this information, a report furnished by the FIA said.

This information was not available with the FIA, it said, adding it had again requested the defence secretary to identify the officers on the basis of record and provide their current whereabouts and contact information.

In an earlier report, the FIA had said that retired Gen Beg during investigations had denied conveying any instructions of the presidency or the GHQ, adding that retired Gen Durrani was directly in touch with the presidency.

Likewise Asad Durrani had admitted having disbursed the money but said it was done under instructions from the then president’s election cell comprising Ijlal Haider Zaidi and Roedad Khan and that the army high command was on board.

In his second statement, the report stated, Asad Durrani added that retired Lt Col Eqbal Saeed and retired Lt Col Salman Butt were responsible for the disbursement in Punjab. In the third statement while reacting to the handwritten disbursement notes provided by retired Brig Hamid Saeed Akhtar, Asad Durrani explained that as ISI DG he must have forwarded them to the MI headquarters, GHQ, as the operation was handled by the MI of which he was head before the elections.

On the other hand, retired Brig Hamid Saeed, the report said, provided handwritten disbursement notes for the money distributed in Sindh, the originals of which, as per his statement, were delivered to Asad Durrani.

The report said that retired Lt Col Eqbal Saeed was currently was settled in the US whereas retired Lt Col Salman Butt of the MI hung up the phone, saying the FIA was knocking at the wrong doors, when he was asked for an interview by the agency.

The report said that the FIA had examined politicians like Afaq Ahmed of the MQM and former prime minister Zafarullah Jamali in 2018.

About Muhammad Younus Habib of the Mehran Bank, the report said, he reiterated his earlier statement of having embezzled over Rs1.5 billion as fake loans — on which a reference was also filed against him by the National Accountability Bureau and a plea bargain was pending — and on the directives of the presidency’s election cell handed over Rs140.75 million through cash withdrawal to the secret funds for the elections.

The report said that Younus Habib was admitted at the intensive care unit of a hospital in Karachi when last contacted.

Of over Rs140m, the report explained, Rs60m was distributed among different politicians, another Rs60m was deposited in Kashmir Fund and Rs20m was allocated for external operations etc.

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