WEB DESK: Addressing a news conference on Wednesday, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, commented on various issues, including the Asghar Khan case and his own strained relations with a cabinet colleague Minister for Water and Power and Defence Khawaja Asif.
Regarding the Asghar Khan case, which involves of distribution by ISI of Rs 140 million among different politicians – Mian Nawaz Sharif also allegedly accepted Rs 3.5 million – before the 1990 general elations, he disclosed that the Prime Minister had recorded his statement with the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) the same day.
The minister said all cases pending with FIA would be taken to their logical conclusion, and that he hoped there would be progress in the Asghar Khan case. But he added that the statements of ex-army officers – namely retired army chief GeneralAslam Beg and ex-ISI director-general Lieutenant-General Asad Durrani (retd) – were the biggest stumbling block.
On the face of it, there should be no such problem considering that General Durrani had submitted an affidavit before the Supreme Court admitting distribution of the money among different parties to form an anti-PPP alliance. Besides, after retirement they are both private citizens, and hence there should be no hindrance in getting any further information from them. As per the court orders, the government was to carry out further investigations to establish who actually received the money. The then PPP government avoided investigations because of its ‘conciliation’ policy. The PML(N) government too did not do anything until now.
The recoding by the FIA of the PM’s deposition at this point indicates two things: it is an attempt to fend off PTI Chairman’s constant criticism. Second and more important, the government seems to have decided to end the case in a favourable manner on its own watch instead of leaving the issue open which might be used by a future hostile government against the prime minister.
As it is, FIA is a government agency, and hence at its beck and call. It can claim it recorded statements of all involved, including the army officers and found no evidence or eye-witness account of Nawaz Sharif having accepted the money, and hence declare the case finally closed. An impartial inquiry is more desirable.
As for the squabbling among cabinet members, it has reached a point where the Prime Minister had to admonish them during a meeting on Wednesday. It may be recalled that a few days ago, Khawaja Asif had publicly expressed his dislike of the Planning and Development Minister Ahsan Iqbal, saying he and the Petroleum Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, were of the same opinion that the country does not need the Planning Commission. Soon afterwards, the PM had to come out in support of Iqbal who had complained to him that his two cabinet colleagues were unhappy with the Planning Commission’s scrutiny.
Khawaja Asif had also revealed that he was not on speaking terms with the Interior Minister for the last four years. Acknowledging the discord in his press talk, Chaudhry Nisar said he did not need the defence ministry to interact with the GHQ. In this particular case, the state of relations between them may not affect interior ministry’s affairs but open rivalries and quarrels between other members of the cabinet can certainly hamper advancement of various plans and policies of the government.