The crux of the Supreme Court’s cases against various PPP leaders has been the unassailable assertion that no one should be above the law, no matter how powerful they are. By not appearing before the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), Arsalan Iftikhar, the son of Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry, has now gifted the PPP with the same argument. Arsalan contends that he did not receive any summonses from NAB, an excuse that will not wash, since all he had to do was pick up a newspaper to know that he was expected to appear before the body. Arsalan seems like the typical son of privilege, a man who has sailed through life by using his father’s name. He has to answer for his misdeeds and his stonewalling is merely delaying the inevitable.
At the same time, the PPP will have to ensure that it does not stand accused of the very same allege crime, which it has levelled against the Supreme Court: that it is out on a witch hunt. Obviously, NAB’s investigation into Arsalan’s case was ordered by the attorney general on the Court’s orders and so was not officially initiated by the PPP. But there are many whispers that the PPP had first leaked the story of Arsalan’s alleged transactional relationship with Malik Riaz to the press. The best thing the government can do is to let the process play itself out without involving itself in it. A transparent investigation and trial of whose fairness there can be no doubt about is the only way to wrap up this matter.
Accountability bodies, from Nawaz Sharif’s Ehtesab Bureau to NAB under General (retd) Pervez Musharraf, have usually been used as a cudgel against opposition figures. The PPP, to some extent, has avoided falling into the same trap. It should not succumb to the temptation of using NAB against the chief justice’s son and it should certainly not favour Riaz, who is just as guilty as Arsalan if the charges are found to be true. Helping the PPP in its struggle against the judiciary should not automatically grant Riaz a get-out-of-jail-free card.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 25th, 2012.