Former Director General Intelligence Bureau (IB) Masood Sharif Khan Khattak on Feb 6, 2013 submitted a written reply before the Supreme Court, claiming that non-political forces were behind the vote of no-confidence against the elected government of Benazir Bhutto during 1989.
He submitted the reply before the three-member bench comprising Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, Justice Gulzar Ahmed and Justice Sh Azmat Saeed that resumed hearing into the allegations regarding misappropriation of the IB’s secret funds during 2008 and 1989. The CJ had taken notice of a report in an English daily alleging that Rs360m had been withdrawn by the PPP government in 1988-90 to buy loyalty of parliamentarians to offset a no-confidence motion against the government, win elections in Azad Kashmir and remove the government in the then NWFP and install Aftab Sherpao as chief minister.
Khattak, in his nine-page reply naming late President Ghulam Ishaq Khan and former Chief of the Army Staff Gen Mirza Aslam Baig as the most powerful personalities, said that they wanted to keep Benazir Bhutto out of power through their pre-poll rigging efforts in 1988 elections, which started with the formation of the Islami Jamhoori Ittehad (IJI).
He said: “Those, who wanted to keep PPP and Benazir Bhutto out of power through pre-poll activity against her, were surely going to also try and remove her from the corridors of power in the shortest possible time frame after they had been forced to hand over power to her due to the weight of the 92 PPP MNAs-elect of that time.”
He said being head of the IB, it was his duty to keep abreast with all such happenings that were aimed at destabilising the constitutionally elected government at that time.
He maintained that they knew about such a move ahead of its tabling in the Parliament.
The former IB chief, referring to the IJI’s vote of no-confidence on October 23, 1989, said that everything was wrong with such a vote when the moving force behind it was not political.
He said that with the with the complete backing of the former COAS Mirza Aslam Baig, the former president, and the then Punjab government, Benazir Bhutto was only reduced to the limits of the federal capital with no access to intelligence from military intelligence agencies, and therefore the ex-PM was heavily dependent upon the IB about such movements.
“I must say here in very unambiguous terms, that even if any government of Pakistan when placed under extreme unconstitutional pressures, does spend any funds to ward off unconstitutional steps aimed at dismantling that government, there would be nothing illegal about,” he added.
He said that he was on the right side of the constitution against extra-constitutional efforts and had to suffer extensively for that reason.
Refuting claims of a report by an English daily, Khattak said that he outrightly denied the aspersions that the amounts during his period as IB chief were distributed right, left and center with ulterior motives.
He said that he had appeared before the Lahore High court during February 1992 and maintained that those funds were indeed spent towards furthering the national interest.
He further said that the case was heard in 1991-92 in the LHC in connection with the accountability cases prepared by the then presidency under the direct supervision of former President GIK and his ‘henchmen’, including Roedad Khan.
Khattak maintained that since 21 years had passed and he did not recollect what he had argued before the LHC, but added: “I do remember having said and conclusively proved before the court that the amounts mentioned were actually spent for the bona fide purposes that they were meant for.”
He contended that since no wrongdoings had been committed in his case, the LHC had shelved the case 21 years ago.
During the hearing, the CJ directed Khattak to submit his reply with the registrar office. Masood also apprised the bench that whatever he had written in his reply was based upon his memory.
Meanwhile, another former IB chief, Tariq A. Lodhi, during whose tenure Rs270 million was withdrawn by the present PPP government to dislodge the Punjab government in 2008-09, submitted a reply but claimed it to be privileged. The court ordered its office to keep Lodhi’s documents in sealed cover. It asked Attorney General Irfan Qadir to submit a reply on behalf of the incumbent IB director general.
The Lahore High Court informed the Supreme Court during the hearing that a reference against Benazir Bhutto’s decision to increase secret service funds of the IB and then withdraw it, between 1988 and 1990, had been rejected by one of its benches in 1994. The information was provided by the LHC registrar in an envelope which was opened in the court.
“The registrar of the LHC has submitted a report stating therein that a reference No 11 of 1990 entitled president versus Benazir Bhutto was heard but since it had no force the same was rejected on March 27, 1994,” the SC said in its order.
At the SC hearing, former IB chief Masood Sharif Khan Khattak claimed that he had appeared before the LHC as a prosecution witness in the secret service fund reference sent by an accountability cell in the Presidency on the orders of then president Ghulam Ishaq Khan.
The cell was set up after the dismissal of the first government of Bhutto on August 5, 1990. It was manned by bureaucrat Roedad Khan either as its head or someone with authority, he added.
Khattak alleged that the reference was based on exactly the same documents and the amount was the same as published by the newspaper.
He said the LHC had heard the case in 1991-92 and he had submitted details about the use of funds which the news report had rediscovered after a lapse of 21 long years in which the country had passed through so much turmoil, tribulation and hard times.
“Since I was a prosecution witness and my statement was something that demolished the case, Benazir Bhutto was not unjustifiably disqualified,” Mr Khattak said, adding that the sole purpose of filing the reference was to disqualify Benazir Bhutto and throw her out of politics.
He said the amount and documents quoted by the newspaper had come under the scrutiny of the high court after which the case was never heard despite the fact that president Ishaq Khan, backed by former army chief Gen (retd) Mirza Aslam Beg, wanted to get Ms Bhutto disqualified and removed from politics forever.