SECOND EDITORIAL : Politics in the presidency
The apex court has made the presidency a party to
the Asghar Khan case to inquire from the president’s principal secretary whether a political cell was functioning in the presidency in the 1990s. The case now revolves around whether a political cell exists in the ISI that had allegedly distributed Rs 140 billion among anti-PPP politicians to lubricate the formation of the Islami Jamhoori Ittehad (IJI) with the sole purpose of preventing the PPP from winning the 1990 general elections. It has been learnt through documents presented in the court by the counsel of Asghar Khan that President Ghulam Ishaq Khan was running a political cell in the presidency to influence the results of the general elections, which was later continued under President Farooq Leghari. So far at least, there has been no suggestion in the SC hearings that such a political cell continues to operate in the presidency long after both Ghulam Ishaq Khan and Farooq Leghari have left the presidency (and on to their heavenly abode). However, this new twist in the Asghar Khan case could potentially prove embarrassing for President Asif Ali Zardari, who is already facing a case in the Lahore High Court (LHC) over holding dual office. That President Zardari might face contempt charges in the case for not implementing the court’s interim order to cease all political activities in the presidency is still under discussion in the LHC. Since President Asif Ali Zardari, while being the Co-Chairman of the PPP, has assumed the office of president, a controversy, stoked by his opponents, has broken out whether political activities in the presidency, of which Mr Zardari is accused, undermine the constitutional neutrality of the office of the president, being a symbol of the federation and supreme commander of the armed forces. The SC is unlikely to proceed on this question since the case is sub judice in the LHC, but a discussion during the Asghar Khan case hearings on the appropriate parameters of the president’s office could end up influencing the outcome of the dual office case.
The role of the spy agencies in Pakistan’s politics, as indicated by the Asghar Khan case, did not allow the political process to unfold naturally through free, fair and consistent elections. The trail of the ISI’s role leading to the presidency does offer an opportunity to clear the air, prevent political cells operating within the intelligence agencies and presidency, if they are found to exist still, and cleanse the Augean stables of manipulated political processes that bear little resemblance to a credible and clean democratic system. *