It is a week since the Supreme Court delivered its historic short order on retired Air Marshal Asghar Khan’s petition of 1996 but all that has followed it is political acrimony and no concrete action.
Elated by the inference in the order that the 1990 general elections were stolen from his Pakistan People’s Party, Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf, was quick to promise acting on the order “in letter and spirit”.
But his government has given no indication that it is going to take on the two army generals who, the order said, violated the constitution by arranging funds for the anti-PPP politicians to defeat their common enemy, unitedly as Islami Jamhoori Ittehad (IJI) in that election.
Soon after the Supreme Court announced its judgment, PM Ashraf surprised the media by inviting them to his first, formal, open press conference since taking his office on June 22 this year, as a consequence of another historic verdict of the Supreme Court that had sent his predecessor, Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani, packing on contempt of court charge.
There, the beaming PM hailed the latest verdict of the Supreme Court as vindicating his party, promised to implement it “in letter and spirit” – and then went blazing his guns at the IJI leaders and parties for doing the historic wrong done to the PPP in 1990. PML-N and Mian Nawaz Sharif, who had won that ‘stolen’ election, were his main target, but he did not name him.
Since then the two parties have been on the warpath and the intent of the Supreme Court to cleanse national politics of unethical practices and military interference has fallen by the wayside.
Now the underlings of the high priests of PPP and PML-N are carrying on the fight to build a victory for their party in the general election that is just months away.
While PPP is harking on the Supreme Court’s order that FIA probe which politicians received money from ISI for the 1990 electoral fight.
Nawaz Sharif is alleged to have been among them.
However, the PML-N firmly rejects the allegation and the FIA and is demanding that a judicial commission do the probing – all the way since PPP came to power in 1972 in the aftermath of the disintegration of Pakistan.
A probe is needed in any case in the absence of any documentary evidence of the actual distribution of funds among the candidates of the 1990 IJI. But the PPP has taken the Supreme Court’s order to the government to put the Federal Investigation Agency to the task as a godsend opportunity to paint the PML-N leadership black even before initiating any formal inquiry.
PPP information secretary Qamar Zaman Kaira, who is also the chief spokesperson for the government in his capacity of federal information minister, pegs his attacks on the PML-N on the court judgment.
But the entire PPP leadership is meaningfully mum on the court’s indictment of military’s unconstitutional indulgence in political affairs which as per the court judgment has been proven true, and direction to the government start legal action against Gen Aslam Beg, the former army chief, and Lt-Gen (retired) Asad Durrani who was the ISI chief under his command, and Younas Habib of Mehran Bank who was persuaded by the then president, late Ghulam Ishaq Khan and the army chief, to cough up Rs140 million to block PPP staging a comeback in the 1990 election, caused by the dismissal of the PPP government of late Benzair Bhutto.
After promising action on the court orders at his October 19 press conference, PM Ashraf left to perform Haj and his media office is not ready to throw light on where things stand today.
But his hyperactive interior minister, Rehman Malik, certainly has not made any move to activate the FIA which he controls. He has demanded though that the Sharif brothers apologise to the people of Pakistan for “their role” in 1990 general elections.
A sitting PPP minister candidly admitted to Dawn that whether or not Sharif brothers benefited from the ISI funds, the Supreme Court ruling that the 1990 elections were not free and fair “is more than enough for us to have a go at the PML-N”.
Neither he saw an FIA inquiry into ISI saga finishing before the next general elections. In fact he considered it “a fat chance” the FIA pinning down the charge on any of the politician named by Gen Durrani in the absence of hard documentary evidence.
“We got the best deal from the Supreme Court (verdict). The party will only try to play it up as an election stunt, but will do nothing practical to bar the Sharifs from politics,” said the PPP leader.
Then he added: “The best thing about President Zardari is that he knows his limits and plays politics accordingly.”