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Thursday May 31 2018

CJP reprimands govt over lack of progress in Asghar Khan case


LAHORE: Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Mian Saqib Nisar on Thursday reprimanded the federal government over lack of progress in the Asghar Khan case, as he resumed hearing the case a day after returning from a foreign visit.

"Why hasn't the federal cabinet done anything regarding the Asghar Khan case verdict," he remarked, adding that this is a serious case but the government is least concerned about it.

The top judge, who reached Pakistan late Wednesday after a two-week international tour, resumed his duties Thursday morning. 

A three-member bench, headed by the CJP, heard the case at Supreme Court Lahore Registry. The bench also comprises Justice Manzoor Ahmad Malik and Justice Gulzar Ahmed. 

On May 8, the apex court gave a week’s time to the federal government to summon a cabinet meeting to determine what action to take in light of the case verdict. 

Appearing before the court, the attorney general (AG) requested the court for more time. "Please give us some time to summon a meeting of the cabinet," he said. 

To which, an enraged CJP remarked: "The cabinet should hold a meeting today and take a decision. You must tell us about cabinet's decision today only."

Moreover, Director-General Federal Investigation Agency Basheer Memon said that an inquiry into the case is ongoing. 

At the last hearing, Chief Justice Saqib Nisar remarked that the court has given its order in the case and rejected review petitions of former army chief General Mirza Aslam Beg and former Inter-Services Intelligence DG Lieutenant General Asad Durrani, accused of illegally influencing the 1990 elections.

Now, the implementation of the verdict remains, the chief justice asserted.

"To-date the federal government did not do anything," he regretted, adding that the FIA probe after the verdict also ceased after a certain point.

The chief justice directed the federal government to implement the court’s earlier verdict and decide what action has to be taken against the accused in the case.

Chief Justice Nisar also observed that it is the government’s job to determine in which court former army officers are to be tried.

Case history

On October 19, 2012, the apex court had issued a 141-page verdict, ordering legal proceedings against Gen (retd) Beg and Lt Gen (retd) Durrani in a case filed 16 years ago by former air chief Air Marshal Asghar Khan.

Khan, who passed away in January this year, was represented in the Supreme Court by renowned lawyer Salman Akram Raja.

Khan had petitioned the Supreme Court in 1996 alleging that the two senior army officers and the then-president Ghulam Ishaq Khan had doled out Rs140 million among several politicians ahead of the 1990 polls to ensure Benazir Bhutto's defeat in the polls.

The Islamic Jamhoori Ittehad (IJI), consisting of nine parties including the Pakistan Muslim League, National Peoples Party and Jamaat-e-Islami, had won the 1990 elections, with Nawaz Sharif being elected prime minister. The alliance had been formed to oppose the Benazir Bhutto-led Pakistan Peoples Party.

In 1996, Khan had written a letter to the then Supreme Court Chief Justice Nasim Hassan Shah naming Beg, Durrani and Younis Habib, the ex-Habib Bank Sindh chief and owner of Mehran Bank, about the unlawful disbursement of public money and its misuse for political purposes.

The 2012 apex court judgment, authored by the then-Chief Justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Chaudhry, had directed the Federal Investigation Agency to initiate a transparent investigation and subsequent trial if sufficient evidence is found against the former army officers.

That investigation is yet to conclude.