When Arsalan Iftikhar takes the stand before the Supreme Court on charges of alleged corruption, 180 million will watch in the hopes that justice may be served. Hanging in the balance is not just the reputation of the honourable Court, Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chauhdry or his son, but the dreams and aspirations of all those who live in the hope of a better Pakistan, despite being disappointed on numerous occasions by a system that rewards the corrupt and punishes the just.
Our media moguls, the masters of spin, have already started obfuscating the case by switching the focus of the public discourse to a supposed conspiracy hatched to trap Arsalan. If the sinister forces of darkness implemented a plan to drag an honest man’s name through the mud, then they deserve to be punished. But before we begin hunting for those who hatched this cunning plan, let us first establish that the man who stands accused is indeed innocent. It must be proven that no money, gifts or foreign trips were granted or accepted with the promise of gaining undue favour from any public office. All other matters are secondary.
If it is proven that Arsalan was trapped to malign his father and that he is indeed guilty of accepting bribes, then let us pity him for his gullibility. But let us also urge the Court to prosecute him for his blatant violation of the law. For too long, the sons and daughters of the rich and powerful have usurped the rights of the deserving. There have always been those who got seats in medical schools although they did not deserve to be there; won contracts that they were not entitled to or got jobs they were not qualified for. Left behind are those who might have toiled in earnest but did not have the good fortune of having a judge, general, minister or a media tycoon for a parent. Disappointed, disillusioned and on board a plane to fairer climes are those who have nothing but hard work and talent at their disposal. We have lost our brightest minds and most upstanding individuals because our society shields the sins of the mighty and ridicules the righteous.
The triumph of corruption over honesty and the victory of power over truth has skewed the moral foundations of this country. Success has become dependent on who you know, who you can coerce, who you fool and who stands by to protect you. The case of Arsalan Iftikhar can set this moral imbalance right. In judging this case with fairness, the judges can restore the faith of the citizens in the judiciary. They can prevent us from raising our children as thieves, arrest our moral decline and subsequently, restore the national honour we hold so dear.
The people of this country took to the streets in order to restore the judiciary because they believed that these judges would usher in a new era of justice. I hope that the honourable justices, in judging Arsalan Iftikhar, will not forget the trust that the citizens have placed in the system. This judiciary has set a precedent like no bench of justices before — to have zero tolerance for corruption. They call to book those believed to be corrupt, regardless of their office or power. This indiscriminate dispensation of justice has won this judiciary the hearts and approval of the common people. If they fail to exercise that impartiality now, when one near and dear stands accused, they stand to lose their credibility in the eyes of the people from whom (and the Constitution) they derive their power and moral authority.
I hope the judges will remember that hearing this case with impartiality and transparency is about restoring the faith of 180 million Pakistanis in the rule of law, justice, hard work and fair play.
Published In The Express Tribune, June 12th, 2012.
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