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Army of Fundraisers

A register of reports and views from the Pakistan press

Written by Ruchika Talwar |
March 10, 2012 12:11:10 am

ARMY OF FUNDRAISERS

A previously dead-in-the-water court case could become a landmark judgment should it address the concerns it raises. In 1996,a petition was filed by a retired air marshal,Asghar Khan,after former interior minister Naseerullah Babar gave a statement in Parliament that the ISI helped distribute Rs 140 million among political opponents of the PPP during the 1990 general elections. General Aslam Baig,then army chief,and General Asad Durrani,then ISI chief,were made respondents in the case. A court summons was also sent to Younus Habib,the former chief of Mehran Bank,from where the money was siphoned out. As the Supreme Court was preparing to hear in this case,another petition was filed by Habib Wahabul Khairi “to end the ISI’s interference in political affairs of the state,as it is a violation of fundamental rights”. The alleged purpose of the ISI funding the PPP’s opponents was to hurt Benazir Bhutto’s election campaign (she was then seeking a second term as PM).

Dawn reported on March 9 that Habib’s statement stunned the court when he said that he “had been forced by former president,late Ghulam Ishaq Khan and former army chief Aslam Beg to arrange Rs 340 million in the ‘supreme national interest’”. Habib’s sensational statement received ambivalent ratification from the Generals Baig and Durrani. While General Durrani obliquely confirmed his involvement in the money distribution,General Baig denied outright that any funds were set apart for this purpose. The News reported on March 9 that Durrani stated in court that he was ISI chief at the time when money was distributed among the politicians on the directives of the then army chief,allegations dismissed by General Baig. The hearing has now been adjourned till March 14.

‘SLAPSTICK’ POLL

Last week,when Waheeda Shah,a PPP contestant in Sindh’s Tando Mohammad Khan by-election,slapped an election officer,Pakistan’s Supreme Court took suo motu cognisance of the incident and asked her to explain her actions in court. The Express Tribune reported on March 4 that the election officer who was slapped pardoned Shah because she had apologised to her later.

The Supreme Court also sought the intervention of the Election Commission of Pakistan and demanded disciplinary action. On March 8,Daily Times reported the proceedings of the election commission with the headline,“Waheeda Shah slapped with two-year ban.” The report stated that Shah was disqualified from contesting any election for two years and that this election was declared “null and void”. Shah can appeal in the Supreme Court though her actions were caught on camera.

Pakistani newspapers reported later that Shah’s supporters protested against the EC’s ban on her and termed it “selective justice”,alleging that incidents of electoral misdemeanour are forgiven for people from other parties and provinces,and that the media was conducting its usual “PPP trial”.

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