June 22, 2012
The producers wanted it to look like a tragedy, but it turned out to be a farce! The person they wanted to introduce as a hero, finally turned out to be a villain. In the opening scene, real estate tycoon Malik Riaz tried to sneak into national politics vowing to expose the judiciary, but he ended up exposing his political patrons and the embedded media persons. The appearance in the TV talk show, on June 13, 2012, was planned to look like a hard talk, but the way the hosts interacted with Malik Riaz suggested that it was a pre-planned and coordinated event. The footage of the unguarded conversation of the two hosts with each other and Malik Riaz, during commercial breaks, speaks volumes about embedded journalism.
For committing the sin of unearthing anti-Chief Justice (CJ) and anti-judiciary conspiracy and bringing the video scandal to Supreme Court’s notice, the NAB arrested lawyer Nadeem Ahmed on June 16. Nadeem reportedly knew about the conspiracy and also the designs of the mighty to send a reference against the CJ. He forwarded the link of the leaked video to Barrister Akram Sheikh for forwarding it to the SC Registrar. His email was, however, hacked and resultantly Nadeem was arrested. However, Ansar Abbasi claims that Arsalan did confirm to him that “an intelligence official was engaged to get him a legal cash payment. If it was a legal payment then why a video was made and that too allegedly by some intelligence officials and then shared with the Bahria Town management,” asks Abbasi in his report ‘What is the role of intelligence agencies?’ in daily The News (June 18).
In a ruling, on June 15, the apex court had declared that the interview aired by the TV channel was indicative of a pre-planned conspiracy against the judiciary to scandalise the court and to bring the court and judges into hatred, ridicule or contempt. The court formed a two-member committee, comprising of Justice Jawwad S. Khwaja and Justice Khilji Arif Hussain, to probe the media leakage. The TV interviews of Malik Riaz as well as the Attorney General’s abhorring behaviour in the court on June 14, non-enforcement of court’s ruling on the NRO and the sentence awarded to the prime minister on contempt charges, presidential pardon to a personal guard of Malik Riaz who was awarded 25-year sentence for killing a person in 2010 although his appeal was still pending with the high court, the disclosure of evidence of conspiracy against the judiciary through the leaked video tape and the attorney general’s bid to drag the CJ’s family into the circle of his investigation is sufficient to establish the hidden agenda of the rulers, who view an independent judiciary as an obstacle in the furtherance of their designs. However, in the process, some leaders have suffered far more damage than the court.
Neutral observers, including foreign diplomats, say if the son is adult having his own family then he should be accountable for his acts, and since he is not dependent, his omissions or commissions cannot be attributed to his father. But, still using the exposures of Malik Riaz as a pretext, a law-maker of Mutahidda Majlis-i-Amal in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly Mufti Kifayatullah asked the CJ on June 1 to voluntary step down in the larger interest of the country. However, this caused a commotion in the House.
Earlier, after appearance before the Supreme Court on June 13, Malik Riaz addressed a press conference and as part of strategy to discredit the judiciary, he reiterated that Arsalan had received Rs340 million and that the CJ’s son wields “influence on his father and other judges. He is the don of the judiciary.” (He had leveled similar allegations at a press conference a day earlier.) However, the assertions of Malik Riaz seem to be contradictory. If Arsalan was running the judiciary as a don, then why couldn’t he “deliver” and manage judgments favourable to Malik Riaz?
Opposition Leader in the National Assembly Chaudhry Nisar had in a recent TV talk show revealed that over 100 cases are pending with law courts, including 21 with the apex court, against Malik Riaz and Bahria Town. One fails to understand how on the earth Arsalan could have influenced the thinking of 17 senior-most and respected judges of the apex court, who are known for their integrity/impartiality!
In response to the anti-judiciary conspiracy, lawyers and civil society has united, once again. Lawyers boycotted courts across Pakistan on June 15. To express solidarity with the Supreme Court, President Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) Yasin Azad announced that the SCBA would stand by the CJ and the judiciary and would not support a contractor who believes in settling every issue with money. He demanded across the board accountability of politicians, media persons, generals, bureaucrats and lawyers to expose those who took benefits.
In a conference of all bar associations of Sindh held in Karachi, lawyers declared that the anti-judiciary conspiracy was a state-managed drama. They asked the prime minister to step down after his conviction in the contempt case and warned to lay siege to parliament if the premier did not resign. The lawyers also announced a complete boycott of court proceedings on June 18 throughout Sindh to express solidarity with the CJ and the Supreme Court. They imposed a ban on the entry of Aitzaz Ahsan and Zahid Bukhari to all bar associations of the province.
Meanwhile, PML-N and Jamaat-e-Islami have agreed to contact all political parties to forge an alliance to “get rid of corrupt rulers and establish supremacy of the judiciary.” Opposition Leader in the National Assembly Chaudhry Nisar has announced ceasefire with all political opponents, including the PTI for safeguarding judiciary’s dignity and independence, while Ameer Jamaat-e-Islami Syed Munawar Hasan has asked the president and prime minister to quit without any further delay. He was addressing a Save Judiciary March in Lahore on June 15. Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan has reiterated that the mafia was conspiring to destroy an independent judiciary and that the PTI would stand by the judiciary and the CJ. The PTI planned to bring out pro-CJ rallies in Islamabad and the four provincial capitals on June 18. A PTI announcement said that Imran will lead the Islamabad rally.
Meanwhile, a two-member bench of the Supreme Court has noted that the documents attached to Malik Riaz’s statement do not account for Rs327 million (or 95.5%) of the total money – Rs342.5 million – allegedly spent on behalf of the property tycoon on Arsalan. The ruling said since Malik Riaz had himself conceded that the Supreme Court, as an institution, or its judges have never been involved in any such act, the aspersion cast on the court’s reputation stands cleared. The order said that Malik Riaz, going by his own admission, does not appear to be averse to bribing or attempting to bribe state functionaries or other persons he considers to be influential.
Earlier, the apex court directed the attorney general, on June 14, to set the state machinery in motion so that all those, including Malik Riaz, Arsalan and Salman (son-in-law of Malik Riaz), who might have committed any illegal act, were brought to book with full force and rigour of the law. Through this order, the apex court has sent a clear message that it does not seek any privileged verdict for a privileged son unlike some other persons in higher echelons of power.
According to knowledgeable circles, as per script the entire issue would have been widely publicised even if Arsalan had supposedly delivered on his alleged commitment and Bahria Town had received favourable court verdicts. In such an eventuality, the favourable verdicts would have been presented as an irrefutable evidence of a criminal collusion between an ‘erring son’ and his collaborating father. But, as admitted by Malik Riaz himself, no favourable verdict was handed down to be exploited as proof of successfully-concluded criminal arrangement. Instead, the CJ took the bull by horns and brought his own son and the accuser in the dock. Apparently, the crude attempt to malign the CJ has boomeranged on those very persons who had conceived and staged it. But, the civil society and the black coats need to remain vigilant to protect the CJ and the independence of judiciary from the powerful, exerting power in an abusive fashion.