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Pak SC issues notice to former ISI chief, defence ministry

February 29, 2012 13:31 IST

Pakistan's Supreme Court on Wednesday issued notices to former Inter-Services Intelligence chief Asad Durrani and the Defence Ministry as it resumed hearing a petition against the funding of politicians by the spy agency after a gap of over 12 years.

A three-judge bench led by Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry also sought records related to the case filed in 1996 by former air force chief Asghar Khan.

Among the documents sought by the bench were in-camera statements recorded in the past by Durrani, late Maj Gen Naseerullah Khan Babar and former army chief Gen (retired) Mirza Aslam Beg, and a report on the functioning of the ISI that was originally submitted to the apex court in 1998.

The bench said all these documents should be presented in court in sealed envelopes.

Asghar Khan, who recently announced he would merge his Tehrik-e-Istaqlal party with Imran Khan's Tehrik-e-Insaaf party, had filed the petition against Beg, Durrani and  Yunus Habib, the former head of Mehran Bank.

The last hearing of the case was held 12 years and four months ago.

During Wednesday's hearing, the bench said it was necessary to go through the records as considerable time had passed since the last hearing.

The bench further said the matter could not be put off for long and decided to schedule the next hearing for March 2. At this point, a defence lawyer pointed out that former ISI chief Durrani was abroad on a private visit and would not return till March 6.

At the suggestion of Attorney General Anwar-ul-Haq, the court adjourned the matter till March 8.

The bench further observed that Durrani's presence was necessary in court as the case could not be taken forward in his absence. It directed officials to ascertain banker Yunus Habib's current address within two days so that a notice could also be issued to him.

Asghar Khan's petition had accused Habib of facilitating the distribution of at least Rs 14 crore from his Mehran Bank to defeat the Pakistan People's Party in the 1990 election.

The funds meant to manipulate the results of the polls in favour of the army-backed Islami Jamhoori Ittehad. The money was reportedly distributed among anti-PPP politicians, political parties and journalists.

The case could cause embarrassment for the military and politicians such as Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz chief Nawaz Sharif, who was reportedly among the recipients of the funds.

The Dawn newspaper, in an editorial, noted that the subject matter of the case "may be high-octane and may yield embarrassing headlines for the army and certain politicians" but Asghar Khan's petition was "unlikely to become a transformative moment in the history of civil-military relations".

The petition does not seek any specific punishment against former army chief Mirza Aslam Beg, Asad Durrani or Yunus Habib, it said.

"At best there will be a declaratory judgment along the lines of the one that said the Emergency declared by Gen (Pervez) Musharraf in 2007 was unconstitutional. Those expecting that jail terms or other punishments will be awarded are likely to be disappointed," the editorial said.

Asghar Khan's lawyer Wahabul Khairi on Wednesday petitioned the Supreme Court to eliminate the political wing of the ISI, which has often been accused of meddling in the affairs of political parties.

Khairi has asked the court to take up his application along with Asghar Khan's petition.
Rezaul H Laskar in Islamabad
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