The scandal that has already enveloped Dr Arsalan Iftikhar, the son of Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry, reached a crescendo on June 12 as business tycoon Malik Riaz submitted a written statement to the Supreme Court and then addressed an explosive press conference later in the day laced with very serious allegations. In his statement before the apex court, he alleged that he had given Arsalan nearly Rs350 million in the form of foreign trips and cash payments over a period of three years in exchange for the latter promising to help settle cases related to Bahria Town pending in the apex court. At the press conference, Riaz (who said he had come with a copy of the Holy Quran) told journalists that the CJ should answer whether he had met Riaz in the “dark of the night” and that in such meetings a “sitting registrar” of the apex court as well as “a sitting Supreme Court judge” would also be present. He also alleged that he didn’t give the money voluntarily and was compelled to do so under duress. Not only has Malik Riaz tried to incriminate Arsalan Iftikhar, he has also attempted to implicate the CJ by suggesting that he knew what was going on. The CJ has been widely praised for initiating a suo motu case against his own son before withdrawing himself from it and also for hearing cases on very important national issues such as missing persons and Balochistan involving some of Pakistan’s holy cows. However, now people may wonder how he was not aware of his son’s lavish lifestyle. Also, perhaps answers to some of the questions that Riaz raised at his press conference may be necessary to clear up the air. Arsalan has claimed that he earned his money through his telecommunication company, which got lucrative contracts from major telecommunication companies. That explanation itself raises more questions than it tries to answer.
This is also a scandal that is not limited to just the judiciary. Malik Riaz’s sphere of influence seemingly encompasses every politically-connected entity in Pakistan. Everyone seems to have a dog in this fight, and though the outcome may be uncertain, what is good is that we seem to be heading — albeit tottering in the eyes of some — towards a reality where there will not be any holy cows in the country. That is a good development from the point of view of establishing rule of law.
Published In The Express Tribune, June 13th, 2012.
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