The case involving Arsalan Iftikhar Chaudhry and his dubious dealings with the chief executive of Bahria Town, Malik Riaz, took a sudden turn on the morning of June 7, where rather sensibly, Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry — who up till now had in a rather extraordinary decision been heading the bench himself — stated that he will be recusing himself from the case. This complies with advice given on an earlier occasion as well from the attorney general of Pakistan. The CJ himself must also be familiar with Article IV of a September 2009 Supreme Court notification, which clearly states that a judge should not be hearing cases which involve close relatives as it constitutes a clash of interests. More neutral persons will now be permitted to determine the facts in what promises to be a complex case. The CJ’s timely move averts a huge controversy; Arsalan has also been evicted from his father’s house in a move which, at least symbolically speaking, sends out the right message even though there must be some doubt as to whether it means very much in actual terms.
As the hearing continues, there is a good chance that a Pandora’s box will open up. Television anchors have already given evidence before the Court, detailing what they know of the matter. There have been insinuations that Arsalan was deliberately framed, mainly to malign the CJ. This makes it all the more imperative that he remove himself from the case. The details that come out are not likely to be pleasant. It is hard to believe, as claimed by Arsalan that he knew nothing about the bribes allegedly given to him and saw the whole matter only as a business deal. The CJ’s son has also been involved in some dubious dealings in the past, which does not strengthen his case.
Given Malik Riaz’s reputation, more people are likely to become involved in the sordid affair. It would do everyone good if this matter is resolved in a manner complying strictly with the codes and ethics entailed in the Constitution.
Published In The Express Tribune, June 8th, 2012.