Monday, June 11, 2012

Daily Times editorial June 12, 2012

‘Support’ from an unexpected quarter The only growth industry in Pakistan, it seems, is conspiracy theory. Rumours and speculations have been swirling in the void since the Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry’s son, Dr Arsalan Iftikhar, has been dragged into the controversy surrounding alleged cash payments and other benefits from properly tycoon Malik Riaz to Arsalan. Based on speculations about who might be the beneficiary/ies of the scandal, fingers have been pointed at the government and the military. Prime Minister (PM) Yousaf Raza Gilani has attempted to refute such speculations during an interaction with journalists in Lahore on Sunday. He said that no evidence had so far surfaced against Arsalan, therefore there was no justification, as some have done, for asking for the CJP’s resignation on ethical grounds. He firmly denied that the PPP government or the military were beneficiaries of the controversy. His government respects institutions, the PM asserted, and had no score to settle with the judiciary. In answer to a question regarding Rehman Malik’s relationship with Malik Riaz, the PM dismissed it by saying Mr Riaz has good relations with a number of leaders. In reply to another query, he firmly ruled out any chances of the imposition of martial law as there was no room for such acts any longer. The PM could not resist a dig at the CJP by remarking lightly that if for constitutional reasons, the CJP could not hear the case of his own son, he should consider the PM’s son his own and hear his case. He went on to argue that he had been facing similar allegations regarding his sons for four years, whereas the Arsalan case was only four days old. At the other end of the political spectrum, the PML-N’s Chief Minister Punjab Shahbaz Sharif tilted in favour of the CJP, calling what was going on as “deplorable”, and characterising the CJP as the “last hope” against a wholesale takeover of the country by the PPP led by President Asif Zardari. He feels it should be left to the judges of the superior judiciary to decide if there was a conspiracy afoot against the CJP and the judiciary. He pleaded for the whole nation to stand by the judiciary in this hour of trial. The scene will now shift back to the Supreme Court (SC), since Malik Riaz is reported to have returned to the country on Monday, and the SC will restart hearing the cases against Malik Riaz from today. These cases relate to Malik Riaz’s Bahria property empire, whose thousands of victims who have been deprived of their life savings without any recompense, whether in the shape of promised plots or return of their money, are still clamouring for justice. These cases have been overshadowed by the Arsalan scandal, and the alleged link between the benefits to Arsalan and these cases as stated by Malik Riaz, has yet to be proved. Murkier and murkier.

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