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In Pakistan, an old graft case stirs new fears

Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, with army officers in 1992. Photo courtesy of WikipediaPakistan’s supreme court is considering a case that gives a rare glimpse into the inner workings of Pakistani politics. And the case is raising concerns about how the country’s military has bought influence over elected civilian governments.

According to court filings, in 1990, Assad Durrani, former Director General of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and Military Intelligence, paid $39,000 to Nawaz Sharif, who was then running for Prime Minister. Durrani paid a further $56,000 to the Jamaat – e –Islami party, then the largest religious party in Pakistan.

The bribes were intended to ensure that Sharif and the Jamaat-e-Islami would be friendly towards the military and supportive of its ventures.

The money helped Sharif win a landslide victory against Benazir Bhutto in 1990.

The allegations are far from fresh. But earlier this month, Pakistan’s supreme court issued an interim order in the case that said:

“The general election held in the year 1990 was subjected to corruption and corrupt practices as in view of the overwhelming material produced by the parties during hearing it has been established that an ’Election Cell‘ had been created in the Presidency, which was functioning to provide financial assistance to the favoured candidates, or a group of political parties to achieve desired result by polluting election process and to deprive the people of Pakistan from being represented by their chosen representatives”.

The supreme court also found that RS 60 million of government funds (about $1.15 million in 1999) was given to various politicians to ensure the creation of a government that would support the military.

It’s not clear if the supreme court will make any final rulings in the case. But by taking the case now and issuing formal findings of fact, the court has exposed how the military gained its outsized influence over Pakistani politics.


Melanie Lansakara is a researcher for the FCPA Blog members area.

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