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Forgotten petition takes Pakistan's spy agency to court

By Nasir Habib, CNN
updated 12:57 PM EST, Wed February 29, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The petition was filed in 1996
  • It alleged that the intel agency bribed politicians
  • The former spy chief admitted to paying more than $1.5 million

Islamabad, Pakistan (CNN) -- A 16-year-old petition alleging that Pakistan's intelligence agency bribed senior politicians in the 1990 general elections resurfaced in the country's highest court Wednesday, the attorney for the petitioner told CNN.

The petition, filed in the Supreme Court in 1996 by former Air Force Marshall Asghar Khan, alleges that Pakistan's controversial spy agency -- the Inter-Services Intelligence, or ISI -- bribed senior politicians to create a pro-military government, according to attorney Salman Akram Raja.

Raja said the former spymaster, Gen. Asad Durrani, admitted in an affidavit to bribing politicians with more than $1.5 million before the 1990 general elections against Pakistan's former prime minister, Benazir Bhutto.

Durrani admitted to paying $39,000 to Nawaz Sharif, a senior opposition political leader, and $56,000 to Pakistan's largest religious political party, Jamat-e-Islami.

Sharif and his coalition partners subsequently swept the 1990 general elections with a huge majority and Sharif became prime minister.

Durrani also said that he had made the payments under the directives of then-Chief of Army Staff Gen. Aslam Baig, an allegation denied by Baig's legal counsel Akram Sheikh. Sheikh told CNN that the directives actually came from Ghulam Ishaq Khan, the country's president at the time.

The Supreme Court has summoned Durrani to appear in court March 8, and has asked the Defense Ministry to explain the ISI's position regarding the allegations made in the petition.

The ISI has been accused in the past of interfering in the civilian government and most recently came under scrutiny when the Supreme Court demanded the spy agency hand over seven out of 11 illegal detainees to civilian authorities.

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