In what is being billed as a first for the all-powerful security establishment, the Supreme Court of Pakistan on Friday ordered action against former Chief of Army Staff Mirza Aslam Beg and former Director General of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Asad Durrani for making pay-offs to various politicians ahead of the 1990 general elections to engineer the poll outcome. The Court also ordered the immediate closure of any ‘Political Cell’ that may be functioning in the Presidency or within the ISI.
The Supreme Court passed this judgement in what has come to be called the ‘Mehrangate’ case that dates back to 1996 when the first Air Force Chief Asghar Khan drew the court’s attention to a charge made by former Interior Minister Naseerullah Babar in Parliament that the military and intelligence leadership had worked in tandem to create the Islami Jamhoori Ittehad to prevent the Pakistan Peoples Party – led by Benazir Bhutto – from winning the 1990 elections.
Not much progress was made in the case till January this year when the Court decided to reopen ‘Mehrangate’ in the midst of criticism over it taking up cases against the political leadership with enthusiasm while allowing matters related to the security establishment to remain cobwebbed.
In its order, the Court noted that there was “overwhelming material’’ to establish that an election cell had been created in the Presidency during the 1990 elections to provide financial assistance to the favoured candidates or a group of political parties to “achieve desired result by polluting election process’’. Apart from ordering action against the two retired generals, the Court has also asked action to be initiated against all the beneficiaries of ‘Mehrangate’ which includes former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League.
Though the order specifically states that the two army officers acted in their personal capacity and the organizations they represented had nothing to do with the pay-offs, the three-judge bench noted that the ISI or Military Intelligence “have no role to play in political activities/politics, for formulation or destabilization of political governments, nor can they facilitate or show favour’’ to any political party or politician.
The charge against the two generals was that they had arranged Rs. 140 million in collaboration with then President Ghulam Ishaq Khan to distribute among political parties to keep Ms. Bhutto from becoming premier. While Rs. 60 million was distributed, the remaining amount was put in an account by the name of a construction company managed by the M.I.