Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry has decided to distance himself from a case pertaining to a financial scandal involving his son, Dr Arsalan Iftikhar.
“The bench would continue to hear the case minus the chief justice and the hearing will be conducted in an open court, so everyone knows about its fate,” Chief Justice Chaudhry said on Thursday.
Media reports had suggested that Arsalan had received between Rs300 and Rs400 million from a real estate tycoon, Bahria Town’s chief Malik Riaz, to influence judicial proceedings. The two were summoned to the Supreme Court, which took suo motu notice of the issue.
The chief justice clarified that he had no knowledge about his son’s activities, saying that Arsalan had recently borrowed money for his marriage ceremony and does not have a separate home or his own vehicle.
“The Holy Quran says you are responsible for your own actions, not your children’s,” the chief justice said. “We have faith and we believe in Allah Almighty.”
If some people think that everyone has a price, it is their misconception, the chief justice said, adding: “I want to tell you that judges are no more for sale.”
Attorney General Irfan Qadir raised objections, once again, on Thursday over the two-member special bench, saying it could not proceed independently as the chief justice was initially part of it.
The court informed him that he could follow the procedure of filing a request before the chief justice, who constitutes benches.
After the chief justice’s recusal from the bench, a two-member bench resumed hearing the financial impropriety case.
The special two-judge bench sought a full record of Bahria Town, including its business ventures and tax history, and details regarding all agreements on joint projects between the government and Malik Riaz.
The bench further expressed concern over the word “Bahria” for a housing colony, saying that the name of a respectable institution is being dragged down for personal gains.
Secretary Bahria Town Private Limited (BTPL) Shabbar Hussain told the court that the company was formed in collaboration with the Bahria Foundation, which had a 10% share, while Malik Riaz’s family had a 90% share. However, he added, that the Bahria Foundation is no longer a share holder. The court directed him to produce a termination certificate of the agreement, and a record of the civil court where litigation regarding their company was ongoing.
Shabbar also told the court that Malik Riaz has resigned from the company and his son, Ali Riaz, holds a 26% share, while his wife Beena Riaz holds a 74% share.
The court adjourned the hearing till June 11, while ordering Malik Riaz and Arsalan to submit written statements.
Kamran Khan’s take
The court had earlier issued notices to the chief executive of Geo TV and anchors Kamran Khan, Najam Sethi and The News group editor Shaheen Sehbai to appear before the court with evidence, since they appeared in programmes on the issue. Khan told the bench about his detailed meeting with Malik Riaz, during which the latter showed dossiers that carried documents pertaining to Arsalan’s trips to London over the past three years.
There were tenancy agreements signed by Dr Arsalan for five-star accommodation in Central London and receipts/invoices which showed that the payments were made from the accounts/credits cards controlled by Malik Riaz.
Khan further said that Malik Riaz told him that when he shared the same information with Aitzaz Ahsan, “he (Ahsan) was utterly shocked and broke into tears.” Khan further told the court, “When I questioned Malik Riaz as to why he kept paying Arsalan despite getting unfavourable orders from the court, Riaz said that each time Arsalan made an excuse, while promising that things would start resolving in the next hearing.”
The chief justice remarked he had been hearing Bahria Town cases for the last three years and questioned which tell the court in which case Malik Riaz was given relief in. “Everyone is responsible for his own deeds,” he said. The court summoned both Malik Riaz, who, according to his lawyer, was unwell and his son, Ali Riaz.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 8th, 2012.