‘EC refused to move against Benazir, Zardari despite pressure’

The NAB had urged the Election Commission in 2005 to take action against the former prime minister and her spouse for allegedly providing false information about their assets.

By Iftikhar A. Khan & Khaleeq Kiani
Wednesday, 09 Dec, 2009

ISLAMABAD: The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) urged the Election Commission in late 2005 to take action against the-then PPP chairperson, Benazir Bhutto, and her spouse Asif Ali Zardari for allegedly providing false information about their assets, but the EC refused to become a party.

This was disclosed by former secretary of the Election Commission, Kanwar Mohammad Dilshad, while talking to Dawn on Tuesday.

Mr Dilshad said some hawks in the NAB wanted the EC to register cases against the couple for alleged corrupt practices but were told that under the relevant laws and rules only an individual could approach courts to challenge the veracity of statements of assets and liabilities which at that time were submitted with returning officers concerned by the prospective candidates.

He said the NAB provided voluminous record, spread over more than 200 pages, to show disparity between the statements of assets submitted by Ms Bhutto and Mr Zardari before 1993 and 1997 general elections, and the record available with the bureau.

He said he met the-then chairman of NAB, Lt-Gen Shahid Aziz, to explain the EC’s position and stressed that any action taken by the commission would affect its neutrality and impartiality ahead of the general elections. Lt-Gen Aziz fully agreed with the contention and helped the EC deal with pressures on it, he said.

Mr Dilshad said it was after his meeting with Lt-Gen Aziz that the NAB itself got a case registered against incumbent President Asif Ali Zardari and Ms Bhutto with a district and session judge.

He said when he took a position on the issue, he had in mind the days when the results of 1977 general elections were not accepted and the situation created in the aftermath of the protests led to imposition of martial law in the country.

The-then chief martial law administrator Gen Ziaul Haq formed a committee for inquiry into the polls with the-then EC secretary as its chairman and a team of army officers, including brigadiers and colonels, working under him, to prepare a white paper.

Late Zulfikar Ali Bhutto issued a rejoinder to the white paper from behind the bars and expressed his surprise over the fact that the secretary of the EC which supervised the polls accepted chairmanship of the committee. ‘It was a mistake and we did not want to repeat the mistake,’ Mr Dilshad remarked.

He said the EC was also told that the process of obtaining statements of assets from the candidates was meaningless, unless a procedure was evolved to probe if true value of assets had been disclosed.

He said the NAB authorities were of the view that it was a futile exercise to obtain statements of assets and dump them in boxes.

The former EC secretary said the NAB offered to act as an investigation agency for the EC. The commission, however, was of the view that the NAB should take up the issue with the government for enacting legislation and it would act accordingly in line with any act of the parliament.

The NAB, according to his information, raised the matter with the ministry of law but no progress could be made.

Answering a question, the former EC secretary said the General Headquarters (GHQ) played an important role in the local bodies’ elections of 2001. He said Gen Shahid Aziz, who was then the Director General of Military Operations (DGMO) was head of the army team which monitored the polls.

He conceded that the electoral lists were prepared under the supervision of the GHQ, but stressed that the polls were free and fair.

When he was asked why the EC had amended the relevant rules to make it possible for Gen Pervez Musharraf to contest presidential polls in military uniform, Mr Dilshad said it was done to meet a legal obligation in line with a Supreme Court verdict declaring that the disqualification did not apply to presidential candidates.

The timing of the amendment which made it possible for all government servants, including military officers, convicts and mentally deranged persons, to contest the election had, however, surprised many as it was done days before the presidential polls in 2007.

What made the issue more controversial was that Justice (retd) Abdul Hameed Dogar was the Chief Election Commissioner at the time, who after the imposition of emergency in November, 2007, headed the bench of the apex court that heard petitions challenging candidature of Gen Musharraf for the office of president.

Mr Dilshad said the attention of the commission to the matter was invited by the ministry of law.

Answering a question, the former secretary said he was impressed by the electoral laws in vogue in Bangladesh. He pointed out that under one of the provisions in the electoral laws of the country, the ballot papers at the end of the list of candidates had a column of ‘no’ for those who did not wish to vote for any candidate, but did not want to stay away from the electoral process.

The rule was a source of encouragement for the silent majority as the polls in a constituency were declared void under the law, if more than 50 per cent voters affixed the ‘no’ stamp in the column, Mr Dilshad said, adding that it was his desire to see it become a law in Pakistan as well.

Spokesman rejects reports on Zardari’s assets

ISLAMABAD: Reports claiming that President Asif Ali Zardari has assets worth $1.5 billion in and outside Pakistan are no less than “regurgitation of decades-old, unproven, politically-motivated allegations”, the president’s spokesman, Farhatullah Babar, said on Tuesday. Responding to news reports, the spokesman said none of the charges levelled against Benazir Bhutto and Zardari could be proved in any court of law, despite spending millions of rupees from the public exchequer and “endless witch hunting” across the world. Babar said the alleged cases had been exposed when recordings of conversations between the prosecutors and the trial judge emerged in 2001 and the conviction was set aside. staff report

Manipulated record given to SC: Babar
Wednesday, December 09, 2009
Says govt will not give new shape to NRO

ISLAMABAD: Parliamentary Affairs Minister Dr Babar Awan said on Tuesday that record presented in the Supreme Court on the NRO beneficiaries was prepared by Saifur Rehman’s Ehtesab’s Cell and that it was exaggerated and manipulated.

Addressing a press conference along with Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira, he said it was the commitment of the democratic government that it would never hide any record from the nation at any cost.

He said the government had not prepared this record, adding the preparation of the record had started on November 5, 1996. Babar Awan said the record was prepared under Ehtesab ordinance in 1996 when Farooq Leghari had been president of Pakistan. “In 1997 it was converted in the Ehtesab Act and a senator of the then democratic government, Saifur Rehman, was assigned the task of accountability,” he added.

He said after Oct 12 1999, the draconian laws were given the name of NAB ordinance and a few new concepts were introduced to the law for the first time. He said under the new law, a person could be arrested for 90 days for remand and cases hadbeen filed against Asif Ali Zardari under these draconian laws.

The minister said foreign cases had been triggered on the letter of former attorney general Chaudhry Farooq and manipulated record had been presented to start cases in foreign countries.

“President Asif Ali Zardari was neither a convict nor an absconder at the time of filing of nomination papers for the presidential elections,” he said, adding unfortunately tilt was given to facts.

He said the NRO was now closed, adding the government would not bring it under any new shape for the protection of any body. He said in the Sherpao’s case, the Supreme Court had given a judgement that conviction in absentia was illegal and unconstitutional.

“After being acquitted by the court in a fake drugs case, he was again arrested in the BMW case prepared on the directions of Pervez Musharraf. Maximum penalty under customs law was confiscation but instead of it Asif Ali Zardari was arrested,” Babar added.

He said despite knowing this was a fake record, the government directed the department concerned to present it before the Supreme Court. He said scrutiny of nomination papers by the Election Commission was within due course of law, adding three provinces passed unanimous resolutions in favour of Asif Ali Zardari’s candidature.

He said the government gave same statement in the Supreme Court what the premier had said on the floor of the house. He said the PPP and its leaders always believed in the supremacy of the constitution and respect of the judiciary.



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