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Friday Jan 11 2019

Supreme Court decides not to close Asghar Khan case

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court of Pakistan on Friday decided not to close the long-running case filed by late air chief marshal Asghar Khan, rejecting the Federal Investigation Agency’s recommendation to close the files for “lack of evidence”.

A two-member bench headed by Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar resumed hearing the case earlier today regarding non-implementation of its October 19, 2012 judgment. The late air chief marshal had petitioned the apex court in 1996 alleging that two senior army officers and then-president Ghulam Ishaq Khan had doled out Rs140 million among several politicians to rig the 1990 polls against Benazir Bhutto.

Rejecting the FIA’s recommendation to close the case because of "not enough evidence to continue investigating", the chief justice remarked that the court would not let Asghar Khan’s efforts go to waste.

“FIA is [backing out] when it’s time for implementation. We will summon a reply from FIA, and also from the cabinet,” Justice Nisar remarked, as the bench ordered further investigation into the case.

“If FIA doesn’t have the powers [to investigate the case], then another institution can continue the probe,” the top judge observed, adding that the late air chief marshal’s family was not taken into confidence by the FIA regarding closure of the case.

"The [soldiers] are undergoing trial in military court, whereas another trial is being held for civilians. How will there be a [final] result of the case with these different trials?" Justice Nisar questioned. 

"[We] don't know what proceedings the military is carrying out, why don't we summon a report from them too?" the judge continued.

"They shouldn't think they are outside the jurisdiction of the courts. As the chief justice, I want to tell them that all of this is within our jurisdiction," he observed.

"Why don't we summon the defence secretary? The defence secretary should tell us how much the investigation has progressed."

The hearing was then adjourned till January 25. 

The legal heirs of late Asghar Khan on Thursday had rejected the FIA’s recommendation and requested the Supreme Court not to close the case. In a joint response filed by his family, including his wife and son Ali Asghar Khan, the heirs had pleaded the apex court that the case be taken to its logical conclusion.

The case

On October 19, 2012, the Supreme Court issued a 141-page verdict, ordering legal proceedings against Gen (retd) Aslam Beg and Lt Gen (retd) Asad 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.