Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Daily Times Editorial June 14, 2012

Malik Riaz’s tirade A virtual storm has overtaken the country as a result of the tirade launched by property tycoon Malik Riaz in his press conference following his appearance before the Supreme Court (SC) in the Arsalan Iftikhar case. Although Malik Riaz’s written statement submitted before the SC had levelled serious charges of being blackmailed by Arsalan Iftikhar out of millions of rupees in cash and other benefits, his demeanour before the court gave no hint of what was to follow. In his press conference, Malik Riaz shifted his line of attack from the son to the father, from Arsalan to the Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry. Malik Riaz posed three questions directly to the CJP. First, he asked the CJP to tell the nation how many times he had met him in the darkness of the night? Second, was Arsalan not present in these meetings? Third, how many times had the CJP met Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani at Malik Riaz’s partner Ahmed Khalil’s residence, where the sitting registrar of the SC was also present? According to Malik Riaz, a sitting judge of the SC also used to participate in these meetings. Why did the CJP not take suo motu notice then, and only after the media broke the news, asked Malik Riaz. When did the CJP come to know of Arsalan’s wrongdoings, he asked? (Aitzaz Ahsan has stated that he had informed the CJP of the rumours swirling about Arsalan's business dealings six months ago.) Malik Riaz says a mutual friend of his and the CJP told the latter about the blackmailing of his son but the CJP refuted this and labelled Malik Riaz himself a blackmailer. These statements are startling enough, but Malik Riaz then descended to some wild and incredible assertions. He said the CJP should not have taken up cases against him, implying that since he was being blackmailed by his son, justice would be compromised. He claims the FIA was ordered to implicate him in a murder case, without clarifying who might be interested in such a step. The FIA is controlled by the federal government, the top leaders of the ruling party, President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani being Malik Riaz’s friends, according to his own admission. Who then could have so ordered the FIA? In the next breath Malik Riaz exonerates by implication both the PPP-led federal government and the military from any responsibility for this ‘tsunami’ by declaring there is no ‘third party’ behind the controversy. Though he claims he did not bribe anyone, but was blackmailed, in the next breath he admits his son-in-law did pay bribes! Last but not least, and possibly the piece de resistance, he asserts that the judiciary is not free but being run by a ‘don’, i.e. Arsalan Iftikhar! He ends by promising more startling revelations “in due time”. In response to the diatribe of Malik Riaz, the CJP has taken suo motu notice of the press conference, set up a three-member bench to charge Riaz with contempt, and called a full court meeting of the SC on June 15. No one is in a position presently to ascertain the truth or otherwise of Malik Riaz’s charges, but the fact remains that a distinction needs to be made between what appear prima facie to be serious allegations against the CJP and his son, and wild statements that do not stand up to logic or scrutiny. Both serious allegations and wild statements however have dragged the judiciary into the mud. Whatever the CJP and the SC do in their defence and in defence of the respect and dignity of the judiciary, the taint of accusation will be difficult to jettison or wash clean. It would be in the interests of justice, the respect and dignity of the judiciary, and the country if the CJP were to contemplate stepping aside or at the very least going on leave until the whole matter is cleared up. The charges are too serious and the personage being attacked, the CJP, too important to allow the affair to be expediently dealt with. The truth must be brought out without fear or favour, and all those involved receive their just desserts according to their guilt or innocence as determined by a thorough investigation and final pronouncement by the apex court to salvage something of its battered image.

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