ISLAMABAD: Property tycoon Malik Riaz is purportedly friends with all power players but appears to be losing out the public popularity contest when pitted against Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry.
The issue has, in fact, even brought bitter political rivals Nawaz Sharif and Imran Khan on the same page vis-à-vis their support for the chief justice.
The political foes on Wednesday appeared to one-up each other in their efforts to defend the top judge against what they said is an “ugly conspiracy being hatched by mafias involved in land grabbing.”
Meanwhile, there was an outpouring of solidarity with chief justice, with lawyers and bar associations across the country on Wednesday expressing support to the top judge and superior judiciary in the face of allegations levelled by property magnate Riaz a day earlier.
Riaz had hurled serious yet contradictory allegations at the chief justice at a press conference on Tuesday, implying that the latter was aware of his son Dr Arsalan Iftikhar’s alleged corruption.
Nawaz and Imran
Chairing a party meeting in Islamabad, Nawaz categorically stated that his party would not let anybody harm the Supreme Court.
“The nation is aware of conspiracies against the Supreme Court and will never let them succeed at any cost,” Sharif said.
The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz’s media office issued two separate statements on the issue, minutes apart.
“All political parties, civil society and media stand united behind the court … they will go to any length to protect them against any challenge,” the second statement quoted Nawaz as saying.
Equally categorical in his reaction was Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf chief Imran Khan.
“Forces of honesty and justice are on one side, and those of the status quo on the other,” Imran said while speaking to the media in Lahore.
“But the final victory will be of those fighting for the rule of law. We are with the Supreme Court,” Imran added. Criticising Riaz, Imran said: “The don of property mafia has converted the country into an auction house where everything is for sale.”
The legal fraternity of Islamabad condemned Raiz’s press conference against the superior judiciary, and threatened to stage a sit-in at the Constitution Avenue.
Despite his pecuniary power, government support and political affiliations, Riaz has failed in his attempt to slander the spotless personality of the chief justice, said Islamabad High Court Bar Association President Nayab Gardezi.
He said the chief justice meeting the prime minister at any occasion was not legally or morally objectionable, but that Riaz had unnecessarily given it a dramatic spin.
General body of the Rawalpindi District Bar Association decided to converge at the Supreme Court on June 14, the date for hearing of the contempt case against Riaz, to express solidarity with the superior judiciary.
The district and high court bars of Rawalpindi have banned the entry of Riaz’s lawyer Zahid Bukhari for siding with the man who has levelled serious allegations against the apex court, said general secretary of the association, Imran Malik.
A father could not be punished in the name of his son, said President Lahore Bar Association Chaudhry Zolifqar Ali while addressing a press conference. Ali said that an All Pakistan Lawyers’ Convention will be organized on June 23 to develop a mechanism to confront issues facing the judiciary and the legal fraternity.
Lawyers in Peshawar, however, took a more critical approach to the issue.
Mian Muhibullah Kakakhel said the Supreme Court had strangled itself after it took suo motu notice of the alleged corruption case.
“It was due to his father that Arsalan was paid,” Kakakhel said, adding that close relatives of judges always acted as “dons.” Athar Minallah, however, termed the case a mala fide attempt to intimidate the Supreme Court.
Lawyers in Multan also organised a convention in support of the superior judiciary, blaming the intelligence agencies for what they called was “a ploy against the chief justice.”
(With additional reporting by QAISER ZULFIQAR in ISLAMABAD, MUDASSIR RAJA in RAWALPINDI, Rana Yasif in Lahore, Umer Farooq in PESHAWAR and OWAIS JAFRI in Multan.)
Published in The Express Tribune, June 14th, 2012.
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