Public confidence in the judiciary is under threat. Public confidence in the superior courts is the foundation of any society sought to be established on the basis of rule of law. Malik Riaz and Arsalan Iftikhar have both, albeit with different motives, shaken such foundation to its very core.
The charges levelled against Arsalan Iftikhar, at least to the extent of enjoying extravagant hospitality of the Bahria Town magnate seem difficult to now deny. How a trained medical doctor of modest financial background, unemployed as recently as 2008, landed himself with a net worth of Rs900 million is a question which we cannot wish away. The devastating pain such knowledge must cause his family is unimaginable.
However, there is a much larger danger. Arsalan’s bleeding heel is being malevolently used to damage Pakistan’s judiciary.
Malik Riaz, who travelled back to Pakistan against his doctor’s advice did not appear the least unfit in his boisterous press conference. In sharp contrast to the statement filed in court a few hours earlier where he hailed the integrity of the Supreme Court, Malik Riaz, launched a frontal attack on Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry in his press conference. The allegations do not require repetition here – it will fill the spaces of many newspaper columns – but the purpose and the consequence requires understanding.
Not unlike General Musharraf’s predicament in 2007, Justice Chaudhry is perceived as a threat which is likely to cut short the political career of Prime Minister Gilani. Last month’s conviction of Premier Gilani for contempt will inevitably lead to his disqualification from not only the current office but also from the next general election. President Zardari’s grievance against Justice Chaudhry is no secret. Chaudhry Shujaat is unlikely to have forgotten the humiliation of seeing his nephew behind bars in the NICL scam nor Rehman Malik the embarrassment of being compelled to renounce his British citizenship. Grievances within the ruling coalition are legendary. However, these are mere conjecture and there is no evidence, thus far, of a larger conspiracy.
Malik Riaz has had his press conference but has no intention to hold his peace. He has promised to repeat this scandal show in the coming days. Spare a thought here for the chief justice and other judges of the Supreme Court who can hold no press conference but only speak through their judgments.
“Achilles in Greek mythology was a baby and it was foretold that he would die in battle. To prevent his death, his mother Thetis took Achilles to the River Styx which was supposed to offer powers of invincibility and dipped his body into the water. But as Thetis held Achilles by the heel, his heel was not washed over by the water of the magical river. Achilles grew up to be a man of war who survived many great battles. But one day, a poisonous arrow shot at him was lodged in his heel, killing him shortly after. Still, Achilles is remembered as one of the greatest fighters who ever lived.”
Malik Riaz’s press conference is a poisonous arrow aimed at the heart of the Supreme Court. Irrespective of the failings of Arsalan, we cannot let the Supreme Court bleed. This may not be the greatest Supreme Court which ever lived, but it certainly does not deserve to be maligned by the indiscretion of one lone individual.
Published In The Express Tribune, June 13th, 2012.