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Tuesday May 15 2018

A story behind Asghar Khan case?

What is Asghar Khan case? Was It just a case of distribution of money to politicians and journalists or was it part of a grand conspiracy to overthrow an elected government through unlawful means and replaced them with likeminded in 1990. through rigged elections. It is more than that and is a classic case of Pakistan's political history where the government was first dismissed followed by use of illegal means and that too from the highest office of the State and the establishment to 'rig the polls,' to get 'positive results.

But, the case has something more than what so far been highlighted in the media. If a proper investigation is conducted, a link could be found beyond the distribution of money in 1990 i.e. the use of money a year earlier during the vote of no confidence against former Prime Minister, Benazir Bhutto in 1989.

Even if one goes by the reported statement of a retd Brig. of Military Intelligence (MI) who was posted in Karachi in 1990, it would not be difficult to establish the conspiracy to overthrow an elected government. One man whose name allegedly came in both 1989 and 1990, is a banker, Yunus Habib. Below are the details of how the first move was defeated. 

Apparently, the former officer trying to hide election rigging and the use of illegal means as reasons why BB was dismissed. Its time we must stop trying to show politicians as 'traitors,.' If they were or if they are, courts are there for their trial.

One has to look back to the events which unfolded from the day the 1988 elections were announced and within no time Islami Jamohuri Ittihad (IJI) was created with the blessing of former ISI, chief, Lt. General Hameed Gul, who later admitted and gave his own reasons like the former Brig. of MI.

Late Hameed Gul, once told me that there was general thinking within the establishment that Benazir would be vindictive and could take revenge from those Generals involved in her father's execution. So, it was decided to counter PPP and cut her popularity. 

"Yes, I formed the IJI for the same purpose, but, later after meeting her I changed my opinion. She was a true patriot," he told me in a tv interview.

But, PPP and the Benazir government was never allowed to settle down and within nine months a vote of no confidence was brought against her. If one goes through the details it would not be difficult to find out how money was distributed for the success of the no confidence vote. MQM, which was in the coalition with PPP, was also silently told to support the opposition.

Sources said, the role of the controversial banker, who at that time was in Habib Bank before establishing Mehran Bank, was a key to this game plan. Sources said, if the report of Habib Bank Inquiry Commission, constituted in 1993 and headed by a Federal Secretary is released one may find out some facts related to the vote of no confidence.

Sources also said, the move was defeated after the opposition leader, Nawaz Sharif silently withdrew the support on the pretext that the conspiracy was to replace Benazir with late Ghulam Mustafa Jatoi, who was made an Interim PM after BB was sacked on Aug 6th, 1990. Sharif wanted to become the PM, but, developed differences with the former army chief, retd General Aslam Baig. The move was defeated as some 11 or 12 PML, MNAs did not turn up to cast their vote.

Later, the establishment reached an understanding with Sharif, without informing Jatoi about the change in the plan.

Late Jatoi sahib, a few weeks before his death, disclosed some facts about exactly what happened in 1990 in an interview with me at his Karachi residence.

"Yes, there was an understanding that I would be the next Prime Minister. Opposition parties decided to lead the rally from Peshawar to Karachi. Nawaz Sharif and others were also in the rally. When it reached Punjab, slogans were raised Wazir-e-Azam, Nawaz Sharif. I asked my ADC to get me a flight to Karachi," he said.

When elections were held most of my candidates lost and majority nominated Nawaz Sharif as the prime minister, he added.

In 1994, former Interior Minister, Lt. General Naseerullah Babar raised the issue of election rigging in 1990 and distribution of money in the National Assembly and the government ordered an inquiry, both, into the 1989 vote of no confidence and 1990 elections.

The retired Air Mashral, Asghar Khan in 1995-96, send a letter to the then Chief Justice, Justice Sajjad Ali Shah, asking him to inquire whether a 'Political Cell,' existed in the ISI or not. The former chief justice of Pakistan converted the application into a petition and sought a reply from the concerned authority. It took almost six years to get an answer when it was declared that the cell which was established in 1974 by former PM, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto had been closed.

Later, during the proceedings the former ISI, chief, Lt. General Asad Durrani admitted that money was distributed, on the order of the then army chief, to opposition leaders to defeat PPP. He also submitted an affidavit, giving names of the politicians as well as journalists, editors and owners.

The Supreme Court judgment of 2012, in the detailed judgement, declared the 1990 elections as rigged and ordered the FIA, to initiate an inquiry against those who had given the money and those who had accepted the money. During the course of the inquiry, the only politician who accepted her guilt was Syeda Abida Hussain, all others denied.

Both PPP and PML (N) showed reluctance on taking the case to its logical conclusion and it took another five years. Now, the Supreme Court bench headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan, Mr Justice, Saqib Nisar on Wednesday has finally given one week to the ruling PML-N government to decide what action it will take to implement the apex court's order, 2012. 

Late Asghar Khan's lawyer, Mr Salman Akram Raja has asked for a trial against all accused, for subverting the Constitution.

If such a trial is conducted or a case is registered, it would be for the first time that the civilian and military leadership of 1990, would jointly face the music. Whether it will be done is a big question, if not, it could fall into the category of contempt of court.

The Supreme Court had rejected the review petition of General Baig and General Durrani. It would not be difficult to establish the facts as bank accounts details are there beside Yunus Habib's testimony and the Habib Bank Inquiry Commission report.

The ball is now in the court of Prime Minister, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and PML-N government. Can he and his government take the bold decision of getting a case registered against all those responsible for the 1990 debacle?

It may not be an easy decision for the government to initiate an inquiry against the 1990 opposition leaders who took money; besides other politicians, the name of PML-N quaid Nawaz Sharif is also in the list.

Some PML-N leaders fear that the target, in this case, is also Nawaz Sharif and the move could be to 'embarrass' him and the PML-N. But, the facts remain that if Sharif offered himself for a trial in Asghar Khan case along with General Aslam Baig, General Asad Durrani and other concerned officers and politicians, journalists/editors, it may turn out to be the most historical trial of Pakistan's political history. 

If the government fails then PM Abbasi can face 'contempt of court.'

-The writer is a senior columnist and analyst of GEO, The News and Jang

Note: The views expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Geo News, The News or the Jang Group