Not really a
from the underground
From the time the Hindu Marriage Bill, 2011, was tabled in the National Assembly in October last year, its controversial provisions on divorce have divided the country’s Hindu minority community as never before — thus delaying the much necessary legislation on the issue.
Article 20-28 of the Constitution of Pakistan provides security to non-Muslims and the freedom to profess religion, to manage religious institutions, and safeguard against discrimination in respect of access to public places and service etc. Article 25(1) of the 1973 Constitution provides, “All citizens are equal before law and are entitled to equal protection of law”. Article 35 provides, “The State shall protect the marriage, the family and the child”.
Therefore, the fundamental rights and principles of policy laid down in the constitution clearly empower the state of Pakistan to provide protection to women, children and family. In reality, however, the constitutional guarantees provided to the non-Muslim minority communities have been ignored by successive governments ever since Pakistan came into being almost 65 years ago.
There is no registration system for Hindu marriages in the country despite repeated demands by the country’s Hindu minority community. The Indian parliament passed the Hindu Marriage Act in 1955 which had made it mandatory for Hindu marriages to be registered in India. On the other hand, the Hindu community in Pakistan has been demanding the same rights for decades, but to no avail.
Despite the tabling of the proposed draft of the Hindu Marriage Bill in the National Assembly almost five months ago, two divergent groups of elected Hindu representatives in the Assembly have failed to reach consensus on the divorce provision. The more dominant faction of the Hindu representatives is holding news conferences and protest rallies, and lobbying with the community members to articulate its views. This group has already rejected the Hindu Marriage Bill, saying it extends the right to divorce to Hindu couples whereas ancient Hindu scriptures consider marriage as sacred and unbreakable — the concept of divorce consequently has no place in Hindu religion.
As a matter of fact, the Pakistan government’s decision to introduce the Marriage Bill wasn’t gratuitous. In fact, some Hindu community leaders had been demanding such a Bill from the time the Indian Parliament passed the Hindu Marriage Act of 1955. The need for it arose from the absence of a legal mechanism in Pakistan to register the marriages of Hindus and Sikhs. With no legal documents to prove they were married to each other, Hindu and Sikh couples living in Pakistan encountered huge problems at the time of migrating or working abroad.
Moreover, since marriages did not have a legal sanction in Pakistan, Hindu wives could not legally claim property of their dead husbands.
Religious bigots brazenly exploit the absence of a legal mechanism to register marriage. For years, Hindu women living in Pakistan, even those married and having children, have been abducted and forcibly converted to Islam, and re-married to Muslim men without their consent. In the absence of a marriage document, their husbands or family members have been hamstrung in petitioning courts.
The demand for a legislation to register Hindu marriages received a fillip in 2009 when the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) rejected a Hindu woman’s request for a marriage certificate on the plea that “no such mechanism or legislation was in place.” Taking suo moto action on the issue, Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry directed the federal government on November 23, 2010, to pass the Hindu Marriage Bill, which had been earlier introduced in the National Assembly in 2008. It took the federal government another year to reintroduce the Bill with several amendments, including the provision on divorce. In addition, two separate Bills deal with marriages in the Christian community — the Christian Marriage (Amendment) Bill and the Christian Divorce (Amendment) Bill.
According to Federal Minister for National Harmony Akram Masih Gill, “The proposed legislation on Hindu marriage is in consonance with the legislations passed in India.” But just when it was thought the Bill would be passed, the issue of divorce put the skids under it.
Gill added, “The reason for the inordinate delay in passing the Bill is the split among the elected representatives of the Hindu community over the inclusion of the divorce clause in the proposed law.” The battle lines within the community are now sharply drawn.
Chief Patron of the Pakistan Hindu Council, Ramesh Kumar, who is a Pakistan People’s Party member of the National Assembly, said the Hindu community will never allow the Pakistan government to incorporate the controversial clause —“How can we accept the inclusion of the clause on divorce, which is not even part of our religion?”
Dr Araish Kumar, a minority member of the National Assembly of Pakistan, added, “Since our religion does not allow divorce, the parliament should pass the proposed legislation on marriage without including the contentious divorce clause.”
However, Kishan Chand Parwani, another Hindu member of the National Assembly, strikes a contrary note, claiming that conversion to another religion and sexual problems are potentially justifiable reasons for extending the right to divorce to Hindu couples. It was Parwani who had not only introduced the Hindu Marriage Bill, 2011 in the National Assembly, but had also supported the inclusion of the clause on divorce to the 2008 version.
Clause 13 of the Hindu Marriage Bill spells out the causes — infidelity, cruelty, mental disorder, and forced conversion to another religion — for which Hindu couples can seek divorce. In addition, the clause allows the woman to divorce if her husband is already married and the first wife is still alive. Parwani conceded that Hindu leaders are upset because they feel that the idea of divorce isn’t part of their socio-religious culture. He, however, added, “These leaders forget that India allows it.”
The raging controversy has prompted Minister Akram Masih Gill to appeal to elected representatives of the Hindu community to evolve a consensus on the divorce issue. Citing India’s Hindu Marriage Act, Gill said he plans to consult Indian experts in case the community fails to reach a common position. For the moment, though, Akram Gill’s ministry has sought the opinion of leaders of Karachi’s Hindu Panchayat, which had taken the Indian law as a model for drafting the Pakistani Bill.
Gill said, “Going back to ancient roots would not help resolve the controversy over the divorce clause. True, the Hindus are not supposed to divorce but it is now possible to seek it in the Indian civil court.”
He said the Indians were wise in adopting laws framed under British rule and also introducing progressive legislations. For instance, after independence, the Indian parliament changed the inheritance law which had earlier denied girls born in a Hindu family a share in the ancestral property. Therefore, Gill hoped, the Hindu community would accept all the progressive changes being introduced by the Hindu Marriage Bill, unlike the Indian Muslim community, which had refused to accept the court ruling, ordering the Muslim husband to pay a maintenance amount to his wife whom he had divorced.”
The current year has been tough for the country’s pharmaceutical industry and the organisations responsible for monitoring public health systems and pharmacy businesses. Take the deaths of more than 100 cardiac patients, registered with the Punjab Institute of Cardiology (PIC), due to negative reaction of a contaminated drug.
Investigations into the incident revealed, in addition to many other things, that there was no proper independent regulatory authority to control pharmaceuticals’ manufacturing, distribution and other related activities. It was observed that the situation particularly worsened after the passage of the 18th amendment and transfer of health as a subject to provinces. Almost all the industry stakeholders were in favour of having a central Drug Regulatory Authority (DRA), which could be formed only after the approval of all the provinces.
Punjab took a longer time than others to give its consent as it wanted to trade it for the control of Sheikh Zayed Hospital in Lahore. The hospital, formerly managed by the Cabinet Division, is now under the supervision of the Punjab government.
Currently, Drug Regulatory Authority Ordinance (DRAO) 2012 has been promulgated by President Asif Ali Zardari and a Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Drug Regulatory Authority (DRA) is also in place — though for three month only. An additional secretary of the Cabinet Division has been selected for the post.
It’s hoped the Authority, once it becomes fully functional, will draft rules to regulate the drugs business. However, there is strong criticism by the pharmaceutical industry against the government for going through the exercise in haste and giving control once again to bureaucrats. Besides, they allege there is no focus on introducing international test practices, taking technical hands on board and making certain tests compulsory for registration of drugs.
Dr Farid Khan, Member Pakistan Pharmacy Council, a government body that oversees pharmacy business, is uncomfortable with the idea of appointing provincial health secretaries and other bureaucrats to the DRA board. He tells TNS the authority has been envisaged on the pattern of PEMRA or OGRA where administrators and disciplinarians are in majority. “I would suggest there should be offices like Office of Medicine, Office of Pharmacology, Office of Toxicology etc and the members should know the subject well.”
Dr Khan’s point is that provincial health secretaries are transferred quite often and they have to look after dozens of other matters related to health department. “Drug regulation is no joke and should be the duty of competent professionals who can stick to the job for long and fully focus on this matter.”
He compares the PIC debacle with a similar incident in the US where a contaminated drug claimed above 100 lives in 1938. He says the US President Roosevelt introduced Drugs and Cosmetics Act at that time which led to the establishment of the Federal Drug Agency (FDA). “I am very hopeful that our nation will also learn from this tragedy, like the Americans did, and a reliable drug regulatory mechanism will eventually evolve.”
The appointment of DRA CEO has been contended for being in violation of rules. The ordinance states the federal government may appoint a person as CEO who has a postgraduate degree in pharmacy, public health or medicine with a minimum of 20 years experience in pharmacy services, public health, management or regulatory affairs from either public or private sector.
Dr Sadia Moazzam, Executive Director, the representative body of multinational pharmaceutical manufacturers operating in Pakistan, believes they are seeing old wine in a new bottle. Citing a government notification in her possession, she says, it is strange that a subordinate of the Cabinet Division Secretary Nargis Sethi has been appointed the head of the Authority.
She thinks their issues cannot be resolved till an independent and professionally sound DRA is formed. One such issues, she points out, is the non-existence of the condition to hold bioequivalence and clinical tests for registration of biological drugs like insulin, infernos etc.
Unlike chemical drugs where sticking to the original formula can do, the copy (biological) drugs should be tested on humans to prove their efficacy. The biological drugs, she says, are made from live animal and human cells and genes and copy drugs may not be as effective and safe as the original ones. “In Pakistan, they can be registered without undergoing these tests. We want someone to take cognizance of this issue — but we are not hopeful that the bureaucrats will deliver much.”
Sources in the federal Health Ministry share with TNS that too much haste in the passage of DRA Ordinance has left many issues unaddressed. In fact, the apex court ordered the government to establish DRA within 10 days. What can one expect if a job pending for decades is done in 10 days, they question? The sources add that the ordinance whose life is 120 days can be improved by discussing it in both the houses of the parliament for approval. The sources add the appointment of the CEO has been made on temporary basis to end blockades related to pharmaceutical industry.
The same groups of people who were condemning non-clearance of raw materials at ports and non-allocation of quotas of narcotics for use in pharmaceuticals are opposing this step taken in their interest, they contend.
Dr Farid Khan urges both the houses of the parliament to study the draft, improve it and pass it without delay. The ordinance lapses after every 120 days and its re-promulgation by the president again and again would not help solve the contentious issues, he says, adding, “A well-debated and effective Act of the parliament is what’s needed the most at this time.”
It’s approaching midnight. The up train has settled into an easy gallop, and the passengers into various resting postures.
The lead story in the day’s newspaper — as it is indeed every other day — is the destruction of state-owned enterprises, particularly railways. This journey has been remarkably smooth though: The train departed on time, the loco hasn’t broken down (as yet), all the fans and every fourth light is working, the power socket is being used to charge mobile phone batteries, and the train is generally keeping to schedule. All in spite of the frequently headlined doom for PR.
Those with berths are asleep or sprawled in anticipation of sleep. Those without are leaning against anything solid or lying on the floor. The rhythm of night is finding sync with the rocking motion of train, causing eyes to be closed and minds to be shut. A lethargic bliss hangs in the car. A shrill voice rises from the upper berth across from me: ‘ammi tatti aa gayee’. It’s a little boy, about four years old. He is sitting upright trying to wake his mother so she can take him to toilet. She is awake but very unhappy: ‘Kaisey aa gayee?’ she hisses at the boy, ‘I took you to toilet only a couple of hours ago’.
Boy speaks nothing but tries to convey a sense of urgency and impending misery with his eyes. The woman picks up her phone and starts playing with it as if reaching someone who could come to her rescue. The boy starts whimpering. ‘Acha acha don’t start now, I’m coming,’ she crawls on all fours to find her way down but then changes her mind. The husband is sleeping on the middle berth, below her. She calls out to him a couple times, then bends down to twist his toe but can’t seem to interfere with his snoring. She looks helplessly at the sleeping man, then at her phone.
This is where I offered my services. ‘Billu can wash himself, he’s only scared of closed door, so please hold the door while he is in’. I carry the boy down and am immediately impressed with him. He has not only had an excellent potty training — he has just demonstrated bowel control for almost ten minutes — he also displays immaculate dressing style for a boy sleeping while traveling. He is wearing a two-piece suite with necktie. The jacket is buttoned up and the blue-and-orange tie is askew around the open collar of his pink shirt. He has probably inherited his style from her mother who is sleeping in a full black burqa with brightly coloured plastic designs on the front.
Train toilets come in pairs — a squat model hole in the floor and a ‘European style’ hole in the floor. I open a door and shut it on reflex. The stench is overpowering. And luckily I can’t see the source of this nauseating smell because the light isn’t working. I pull the boy by his arm and try the other stall. A faint light shows a ceramic bowl fixed in the floor and a tap in a tiny wash basin. I try to figure how the boy’s going to use the toilet bowl. It’s got no seat and no cover. The adults probably use it in the same squatting position they are used to, but for my little charge the ‘European style’ hole is life threatening; a slip of the foot and he could find himself dangling in the hole.
I thought about it and took him back to the regular squat model. I used my mobile phone to look inside. It is a regular dump. The steel contraption that is meant to facilitate passage of feces ‘out’ of the train and on to the tracks, is covered in feces. The stench is now clearly coming in two layers — the old and dried off droppings emit a stale smell that is immediately recognisable, and the fresh turds are giving off smells that are personal to the individuals who have deposited them here, and are the cause of complexity and denseness of the odour.
I look at Billu to see how he interprets the situation. He is eagerly finding two parallel spots to plant his feet, pulls down his pants, and off he goes: ‘Uncle don’t close the door, ok’. I won’t. I can’t close the door on PR toilets. No one can. The people and railways of Pakistan are forever linked through these holes.
Younis Habib and former ISI chief General Asad Durrani in their affidavits have only told half-truths. The actual 1990 conspiracy, if unearthed, may result in getting some former generals, bureaucrats and mediapeople involved in cases of high treason.
Besides, all facts have not yet been revealed about what forced Habib to give huge amounts of money from the Habib Bank and not from Mehran Bank to the ISI.
Indepth study into this case may lead to some conclusive links about 1988 and 1990 elections and the two main characters former army chief General Aslam Beg and late President Ghulam Ishaq Khan. Initially, the target was the PPP but, after former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s victory in the elections, the two allegedly ganged up to dislodge Sharif. The latter, because of his strong power base i.e. Punjab, succeeded in removing General Beg.
The ISI under General Hameed Gul in 1988 and under General Asad Durrani in 1990 was fully involved in politics, geared at undermining the democratic forces.
Interestingly, there is no denial as yet from the PPP over Habib’s disclosure that he gave 50 million to the PPP in 1993 elections; one is still waiting for a rebuttal from the then PPP leader and former CM Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa Aftab Sherpao.
One of the closest aides of late Chief Minister Jam Sadiq Ali confirmed that the money was drawn not from Mehran Bank but from Habib Bank. “Jam Sadiq is one of the main characters in the whole game. He was specially asked to return from London and planted first in the PPP and later used for PPP-bashing,” he said.
“Benazir was cheated when she decided to make Jam Sadiq the chief minister and was told by agencies that he had connections with RAW. Therefore, she made him an advisor. It was all part of the great game plan of Ishaq Khan and Aslam Beg,” he added.
He disclosed that the Nawaz Sharif remained part of the plan till the formation of Combined Opposition Parties (COP) and the last such meeting was held at the residence of Ghulam Mustafa Jatoi. “Ishaq Khan and Beg were disappointed over the failure of vote of no-confidence against Benazir in 1989. Otherwise her government would have been overthrown within a year.
“All violence in Karachi and Hyderabad was state-managed and General Aslam Beg did not even take the prime minister into confidence when he decided to send the army into Pucca Qila. He later did the same with Nawaz Sharif as the prime minister by issuing a statement against the US during Iraq-Kuwait conflict,” Jam’s aide said.
Younis Habib and Jam Sadiq were old buddies. “Habib was approached through Sadiq for arranging money for the elections and given the assurance that in return he would be rewarded. He first wanted to become the President of Habib Bank as a reward but, due to some internal objection, Sharif did not agree. He remained silent when he was given licence for the Mehran Bank.”
Sources claim that Nawaz Sharif’s differences with Beg and Khan started within a few months. Sharif had almost sacked Beg over his statement on Iraq, which was in complete contrast to his own. Sharif also knew that it was Beg and Jatoi who wanted to confine him to Punjab while the former army chief allegedly had an ambition to become the president.
GIK was the key person whose hatred against the PPP dates back to the time when the Bhutto ladies accused him of having a role in ZAB’s execution. Benazir was most uncomfortable in accepting him and then getting him elected as the president in 1988.
Sources said that by late 1991, the troika stood completely divided with Sharif facing total isolation, but to the disadvantage of GIK and Asif Nawaz, Jam Sadiq fell seriously ill and knew he may not survive. However, because of his close association and trust on the MQM and its chief Altaf Hussain, he did warn him [Sharif] that army operation may be launched against the MQM and its top leadership could be eliminated.
“Initially Sharif was not taken on board till the finalisation of the plan. I was present in the meeting where Sharif was briefed about the operation against dacoits and criminals in the interior of Sindh,” a former Sindh minister disclosed.
Even premier Sharif did not understand the actual move to create further rift between the PML and the MQM. General Asif Nawaz too was an ambitious person but it was GIK and his team of bureaucrats who wanted to defame the politicians — whether it was Benazir, Nawaz Sharif or Altaf Hussain.
“It’s true and that is why I reacted strongly when the operation against the MQM was launched on June 19, 1992, as the civilian government was kept in complete dark,” PML leader Ch. Nisar Ali Khan told me in an interview.
Jam Sadiq’s death was a setback for the establishment but, soon after his burial, the agencies proposed the name of Syed Muzzafar Hussain Shah. His dilemma was he did not have the support of enough MPAs.
Rarely had a man ruled the province without the support of the two major parties the PPP and the MQM in Sindh Assembly. “The agencies made all these arrangements and at least a dozen MPAs were handed over to him who otherwise belonged to the mainstream PPP and MQM, as both were in opposition.”
What an irony of fate that the same operation was later used to dislodge Sharif’s government by the same GIK in 1993. However, this time his writ was challenged by a powerful man from Punjab. The Supreme Court gave the verdict in favour of Sharif but a situation was created which forced him to resign but not unconditionally. He succeeded in ending the tenure of one of the most controversial presidents in Pakistan’s history who, through conspiracy with two army chiefs and two ISI chiefs, dislodged elected governments and used bankers like Younis Habib to fullfil his design.
The prayer in the petition of the Air Marshal (retd) Asghar Khan in this case is quite limited and confined to the political role of the ISI and the money distributed to the politicians by the ISI through Mehran Bank. But an investigation into the role of some of the key former generals reveals that the pre-poll rigging of 1990 elections was only a followup of what was planned by these ‘political’ generals after the mysterious air crash of General Zia ul Haq.
Though there is some hint of truth in the PML-N leaders’ claim that they had not taken any money from Younis Habib, even Mian Nawaz Sharif had admitted how he was used by the establishment against the PPP, prior to the signing of Charter of Democracy. Former premier Benazir Bhutto on her part, too, had admitted her mistake.
General Kayani’s media talk on Wednesday, at the Prime Minister House (if reported correctly), can generate a lot of controversy as to whether the army wants to protect its retired generals and agencies irrespective of their role particularly in the last two to three decades. Kayani, while talking to a group of senior journalists, was quoted as saying that allegations and undermining of national institutions had always proved detrimental to the country.
“National institutions are not created overnight and are built with a fair amount of difficulty. No one should become a party in weakening the institutions,” he is reported to have said.
Yes, institutions are not created overnight and are built with a fair amount of difficulty. But what about democratic institutions which are still in the process of building up but have been consistently destroyed with the interference and influence of other institutions.
The Chief Justice of Pakistan was right when he said, “agencies are working outside their mandate”. They are and have been for decades. It is time to correct the historic wrong and strongly so; because, ultimately, it’s not the question of an individual but of the institution.
Acids of all kinds (Sulfuric, Nitric and Hydrochloride) are readily available at a very low price everywhere in the country. It costs only Rs50 to buy one litre of highly concentrated sulfuric acid — mostly used in acid attacks — from anywhere in Rawalpindi. Ditto for other parts of the Punjab province — the hotspot of acid attacks with around 90 per cent of total acid attacks in the country focused here.
Pakistan tops the list of countries where more than 150 acid attacks happen every year. Around 80 per cent of the victims of these attacks are women. Reasons relate to ‘honour’, disapproval of marriage proposals and family feuds while 20 per cent of the victims are male.
Experts believe there is a co-relationship between the easy availability of acid and the attacks, though there are other factors too. A good example is South Punjab where 75 per cent of acid attacks, reportedly, take place. Agriculture is the mainstay of South Punjab’s economy and cotton is the main crop. For decades, farmers in the area have been treating cotton seed with sulfuric acid before sowing it. “It is important to remove fuzz for the re-use of seed. It also helps germination of the seed. We also use sulfuric acid to treat water-logging and salinity of the soil. We buy it in bulks and never had a problem,” Tanvir Kahloon, a cotton grower from Bahawalpur district tells TNS.
“During the cotton-sowing season, it is easily available even from small grocery shops in small villages. I buy at least 200 litres every year for seed treatment. This year its price is Rs35 per litre in our area. Shopkeepers often display it on the street in front of their shops like other commodities.”
Acknowledging the fact that women and men are being regularly attacked with acid in his area, Kahloon says, “I know at least a dozen such incidents. Last year, an old man was literally showered with acid in a nearby village by his opponents and he died after a few days.”
Faisalabad is another area where frequent acid attacks were reported in recent weeks. A few weeks back, some unknown people attacked four women there when they were coming out of a factory. “Situation is very tricky here in Faisalabad. Acids are available everywhere in this industrial city as there is no regulatory mechanism in place to check the sale and purchase of acids,” Hamid Sultan, coordinator Faisalabad Urban Resource Centre, tells TNS.
“Majority of sellers either do not have a licence or have a licence to sell only diluted hydrochloride acid used to wash toilets and washrooms, bleaching powder and dyes etc, but they sell all kinds of acid including sulfuric and nitric acid. Small textile industrial units and jewellers are their main buyers,” he says.
District Coordination Officer is the authority to issue licences for selling and storing all kinds of acids and hazardous chemicals. It is a lengthy process to get a licence and one needs to get No Objection Certificates (NoCs) from Civil Defence Department, Environment Department and shops around the place where acid is supposed to be sold or stored.
“It is one of the main requisites to have all safety arrangements including gas masks and fire extinguishers at selling points. The licence needs to be renewed every year. Not even a single new licence has been issued during the last few years in our district which means all the trade of acid in our district is being done illegally,” an official of district Muzaffargarh tells TNS.
This district tops the lists of all districts of Pakistan with such attacks.
The official says, “Acid cannot be sold without proper documentation and, legally, the dealer is responsible to keep a record for every litre of acid he sells. But, none of the acid sellers in our district has the record and none of them has ever been challaned.”
“District Civil Defence Department was the main monitoring authority at district level to check the safety measures and sale purchase record of such chemicals, but in 2005, the Punjab government took away this power from Civil Defence Department. There was no monitoring mechanism since 2005 to check the sale and purchase of acids.
“Though the Punjab government has restored powers of the Civil Defence Department to raid such shops on February 18, after the Lahore factory blast incident, so far not even a single acid trader has been challaned,” he says.
“Over 90 per cent trade of acids in the city is being done illegally,” an official of Civil Defence Department of Rawalpindi tells TNS. “No dealer has ever applied to obtain an NoC from us during the last few years,” he says.
The laws and authorities that govern sale and purchase of acids and other hazardous chemicals are too old and dysfunctional. In Pakistan, the trade of acids is done under Poison Act of 1919.
Oscar-winning director Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, in her first media talk after returning from the US, called on the government of Pakistan to promulgate effective laws to regulate the purchase and sale of acids. “The law on sale of acid should be such where the buyer should also have a licence to purchase acid. These laws already exist and have been immensely helpful in Bangladesh,” she had said.
Bangladesh used to have more than 500 case per year a decade ago, but in 2002, it introduced strict laws and the number of acid attacks has dropped down to less than 100 per year.
An Islamabad-based barrister, Naveed Muzaffar Khan, who has been working with Acid Survivor Foundation (ASF), an NGO working for rehabilitation of acid attack survivors, says, “We need to introduce new and strict laws on acid.” Khan says he has already drafted a new bill “Acid Crime and Burn Prevention Bill 2012” with the help of ASF which will soon be tabled in the parliament with the help of some friendly parliamentarians.
On April 21, 1994, former army chief Gen (retd) Mirza Aslam Beg had issued a 2-page statement on the letter-head of his so-called think-tank, FRIENDS, in which he had said: “Younis Habib donated Rs140 million between September and October 1990. He had claimed that he had collected this money from his community on the direction of Presidential Planning Cell. These donations were meant for the 1990 general elections and intelligence-gathering related to these polls. Such funds had been received in the past from the donors within the country and outside and were deposited with the ISI for the above-mentioned objectives. Therefore, the receipt of these donations and their transfer to the ISI was in accordance with the prevailing practice at that time. The donated funds were transferred to the accounts of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) in installments in October 1990.”
In this statement, Beg had said Rs60 million, out of the donated amount, were spent by the ISI for the elections and the remaining amount was deposited into the ISI’s ‘special funds.’ He had also said that he had personally briefed Nawaz Sharif, who was elected prime minister following the 1990 elections and the new army chief Gen Asif Nawaz about the funds donated and their use. (Jang, April 22, 1994).
Following this statement, Gen (retd) Imranullah Khan, a former general of the Pakistan Army, who served under Gen Beg, gave an interview to Karachi-based Urdu weekly Takbeer, in which he had demanded Gen Beg should be tried by the military for receiving millions of rupees and handing them over to a military institution. He had said the army’s institutions were not run on donations and charities but through budgets allocated by the government. He had also accused Beg of exceeding his authority by depositing the ISI’s funds into an ailing Mehran Bank. (Urdu Daily, Khabrain; April 30, 1994).
Air Marshal (retd) Asghar Khan also demanded a court martial of Beg. Beg, however, demanded the institution of a judicial commission to investigate the issue (The News, 17 May 1994). Beg had also said when he disclosed the names of the politicians who had received the funds in 1990, many stalwarts would have to hide their faces. Perhaps, he was referring to Nawaz Sharif and Shahbaz Sharif (as it has been revealed now after 18 years) without naming them.
One interesting statement that appeared in weekly Politics and Business in April, 1994, came from the MQM chief, Altaf Hussain, who had said former army chief Aslam Beg had tried to bribe him to win over his loyalty. He said Beg’s men had corrupted some MQM members and his ISI officers would often come to him with messages from the General. The MQM chief had said, “One day Beg’s messenger came to me with a bag of money and requested me to take it but I refused.”
On March 23, 1994, Aslam Beg joined the Pakistan Muslim League (Junejo group) and the party chief, Hamid Nasir Chattha, came out publicly in his support over the issue of funds. Chattha had said the receipt of funds was nothing new for the ISI and that Younis Habib had contributed these funds when he was employed in Habib Bank Ltd and Mehran Bank had not come into existence. In October, the same year, Beg quitted the PML-J and announced to launch his own party which later came to be known as Awami Qyadat Party.
On April 20 1994, the interior minister of Benazir Bhutto’s government, Maj-Gen (retd) Naseerullah Khan Babar, spoke about Younis Habib on the floor of the National Assembly. Among other things, he disclosed that Habib obtained Rs280 million from the state-owned development financial institutions against the Mehran Bank Limited repayment guarantees. This amount was obtained by him from the National Development Financial Corporation, National Investment Trust and Saudi-Pak Investment Bank by accepting defective and insufficient security.
Ikram Sehgal, in his column in The Nation on 14 May 1994, wrote that Rs140 million were not taken out from Mehran Bank but from the coffers of Habib Bank when Younis Habib was its provincial chief in Sindh and Safdar Abbas Zaidi was President of the bank. Zaidi was later made Chairman Pakistan Investment Board (PIB). After this episode, Younis Habib opened Mehran Bank. Sehgal wrote that Younis Habib distributed funds worth Rs650 crore among various parties from the Mehran Bank and a total of Rs200 crore were missing from the bank.
At the time of Younis Habib’s donation, Major Gen Asad Durrani (who was later promoted to the rank of Lt General) was the head of the ISI with Col Mir Akbar as his immediate junior in Karachi. Durrani also remained DG Military Intelligence (MI) for some time after the ouster of Benazir Bhutto’s government in August 1990 and after the death of army chief Asif Nawaz in 1993, and at the time of removal of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif a few months afterwards. Lt Gen Javed Ashraf Qazi took over as DG Military Intelligence from Asad Durrani. When Bhutto came into power after the 1993 elections, she appointed Lt Gen (retd) Durrani as ambassador to Germany.