Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani has asserted that “neither the Pakistan Army nor the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) had anything to gain from the alleged case of graft charges on Arsalan Iftikhar”. He also said that “the PPP respects all institutions and has no score to settle with the judiciary”, but added mysteriously that the accuser in the case, the real estate tycoon “Malik Riaz had ties with all political parties and not just the PPP”.
What was not a mystery was the way he tried to weave the cases against his own sons with the allegations Malik Riaz had made with the help of certain journalists. The undeclared intent was to award a certificate of innocence to the son of Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry in hopes of extending it to his sons. The truth of the matter is that Justice Chaudhry has called his son to the Court and has placed the burden of proof, to be presented against him, with Malik Riaz, whose lawyer has initiated the process by denying that his client ever met any journalists to reveal the scandal he attaches to the Chief Justice’s son.
Here the mystery deepens: Malik Riaz will return to Pakistan from abroad against the advice of his doctor as a gesture of respect for the Supreme Court — despite health issues — and depose before the two-judge bench set up to hear the case. By all signs and tokens, the gentleman is going to recant and seek some kind of closure to the case that he has unleashed with his accusations. At least, his lawyer seeks to give the impression that no sparks are going to fly.
It is hard to tell what the endgame will be. If Mr Riaz thinks he will get away by pinning all the accusations on the son of the Chief Justice, while definitively asserting that the latter did not know what his son was doing and was uninvolved in the gallivanting that Arsalan Iftikhar was doing with big money in Europe, he is mistaken. This scandal is going to unfold further and is going to claim its martyrs.
The journalists, who accept that they visited Mr Riaz and saw some of the evidence of Arsalan Iftikhar benefiting from the bounty of the tycoon to the tune of millions of rupees, are already scurrying for cover. There is argument unfolding on TV channels about whether they collaborated with Mr Riaz or reported the matter unethically. Some of them were convinced that there was meat in the evidence shown to them but are now collectively arrayed in defence of the Chief Justice as the targeted party of what they think was a ‘sting operation’ or entrapment.
The journalists are also claiming that they did not disclose the details of the case till much later when politicians began to refer to it. They thought that they should keep the lid on the scandal till they had more solid proof. This, one might say, is not an entirely immaculate assertion. Scandals have been dug up and made to blow up when the proof in some cases was quite slender. What they may, in fact, be fearing is that they may have unknowingly become accessories in the sting operation. The enveloping irony is that Mr Riaz says he did not even meet the journalists.
The most fallacious and misleading ‘principle’ lately established in Pakistan for arriving at a correct apportionment of blame is initiated by the question: who benefits? It is often used to blame India, the US and Israel for the acts of terrorism that happen in Pakistan. This formula has become so popular — it was a part of the ‘games theory’ originally — that people are now trying to focus on the PPP for Arsalangate. Just because the Chief Justice was seen to be victimising the PPP government, it would be incorrect to assume that the PPP has got back at him through Malik Riaz.
The case will unfold at the Supreme Court in the coming days. Even if the accusations are withdrawn or deemed non-existent, things are not going to be the same in this cauldron of scandals called Pakistan. But then how else should a nation achieve self-correction?
Published In The Express Tribune, June 12th, 2012.
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