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Pak polls rigging: Army rejects probe on former generals

November 12, 2012 15:13 IST
The Pakistan army's legal branch has concluded that there is no scope for the military to try former army chief Gen Mirza Aslam Beg and former Inter-Services Intelligence chief Lt Gen Asad Durrani for paying millions of rupees to politicians to rig the 1990 general election, a media report said.

In a preliminary report presented to army chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, the legal branch concluded that the two retired generals could not be tried under the Army Act following the supreme court's order holding them responsible for the rigging of the polls.

Kayani has asked the judge advocate general's branch in the general headquarters to further study the case and to engage top lawyers to assess if the Army Act applies to the kind of acts that Beg and Durrani were involved in, The News quoted its sources as saying.

Following top-level discussions between the civil and military leadership over the possibility of initiating criminal proceedings against Beg and Durrani, the general headquarters has started studying aspects of the Army Act to decide if the two generals would be tried by the military or the civilian government, the report said.

However, the Pakistan People's Party-led government has not yet formally referred the matter to the army. 

The daily quoted its sources as saying that the civilian government might "find much in the prevailing statutes to deal with these cases without referring it to the army". The apex court held Beg and Durrani responsible for rigging the 1990 polls in an order issued in response to a petition filed by former air force chief Asghar Khan.

The court resumed hearing the 16-year-old petition earlier this year and its verdict has triggered a strong response from Kayani.

Without naming the SC, Kayani said in a strongly worded statement that no single institution could define national interests or exceed its role under the Constitution. While acknowledging that "mistakes might have been made by all of us" in the past, he said, "Let us not prejudge anyone, be it a civilian or a military person and extend it, unnecessarily, to undermine respective institutions."

Salman Akram Raja, the counsel for Asghar Khan, has demanded that the government should initiate criminal proceedings under Article 6 of the Constitution, which relates to high treason, against Beg and Durrani.

The SC has directed the Federal Investigation Agency, which comes under the interior ministry, to investigate the politicians who had alleged received payments from the Inter-Services Intelligence in 1990.

The News quoted a military source as saying that under the Section 92(2) of the Army Act, no military personnel can be tried for an offence unless his trial commences within six months after he has ceased to be subject to the Act.

The same section includes a provision envisaging that the period of six months would not be deemed to have expired if the offence relates to desertion, fraudulent enrolment or offences specified in Sections 31 or 40 of the Army Act.

Section 31 covers mutiny and insubordination, which have no relevance to the case of Beg and Durrani, who retired almost two decades ago.

Section 40 covers fraudulent offences in respect of property, including dishonest misappropriation or theft of any government property, but this too has no relevance to the case of the two generals.

According to an affidavit filed by Durrani, the money paid to the politicians in 1990 belonged to the business community and there was no grievance on the part of any businessman, the report said.

The SC has concluded that Beg and Durrani had acted in their individual capacity while absolving the army.    

In a related development, Beg has said that serving or retired army officials should be tried under military rules if they are accused of violating the Constitution or any law. "There's simply no justification for the media trial of military officials as our soldiers can't tolerate humiliation of their superiors," he said.

Experts contended that Beg's statement appeared to be aimed at preventing any action against him by the civilian government.

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