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THE ORCHARD ON FIRE
 
VIEWPOINT
VIEWPOINTIntriguers Caught In Their Own Net
by TARIQ BUTT

The hunter has been caught up in the trap laid for his would-be prey. The whole plot that was contrived over the past three years by many conspirators to rob Pakistan of its first-ever independent judiciary achieved after many sacrifices and a historic movement, fell like a house of cards in just a span of one week. The infected victim, Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, walked out of it with honour and dignity. It was proved once again that the biggest plotter was not the human being but the Intriguers Caught In Their Own Netonly Omnipotent Force, Who annihilates all conspiracies in an unparalleled way.
The intriguers have got their faces blackened. They are deep in an abyss and it is well neigh impossible for them to come out of it unharmed. The business empire that was built on bribes, corruption, extortion and a multitude of other crimes is about to cave in. The prices of Bahria Town plots, which were skyrocketing before the conspiracy hatched by its owner, Malik Riaz Hussain, and his bosses, was busted, have plummeted. The investor's confidence will be impossible to revive.
The plot against the independent judiciary in which the billionaire property baron was the central character has been fully exposed and successive events consigned to dustbin the propaganda targeting Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry's integrity. It was established in a very short span of time that downright lies and misinformation has no legs to stand on. It has to fall, and it fell in a way perhaps no one expected. Resultantly, the conspirators became victim of their own nasty plots. All their machinations stood thwarted. Now, the law should take its course against Malik Riaz, his British national son-in-law Salman Ali Khan and the Chief Justice's son, Dr Arsalan - the three persons, who were allegedly involved in the most despicable corruption scandal with the objective of buying justice.
There should be no leniency towards anyone. Everybody should get the due punishment prescribed under the law. However, all of them are entitled to a free trial and due process of law as ordained in the Constitution as the law doesn't make distinction between a rich person and an ordinary man. While trying to arraign these persons, the government would be in a dilemma. While it dreams and desires to fix Arsalan in a tit-for-tat response to the Chief Justice due to his judgments against it, it would equally want to save Malik Riaz from any kind of prosecution for obvious reasons. This single factor has the potential of obviating the whole legal process, and there is strong likelihood that at the end of the day the case will go nowhere and finally become history. If Arsalan is to be punished, Malik Riaz has to be sentenced first because he initiated the crime. But no agency of the present government can pick up the courage to even call Malik Riaz for any sort of questioning and its every organ is literally in his pocket on the force of money. It is no exaggeration; it is a reality, how bitter it may be. Most people are witness that the government's premier agencies including the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) and police are subservient to Malik Riaz. It is also not a secret that Admiral (retd) Fasih Bukhari was made chairman NAB on the recommendation of the property mogul. Interior Minister A. Rehman Malik dances to the tunes set by Malik Riaz. Topping all of them are President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, who have all praise and favours to shower on him.
In this scenario, it will be foolish to expect that any agency of this government will sincerely carry out a worthwhile investigation as a result of which Malik Riaz could be arraigned. In reality, there is no need to probe the billionaire at all because he has confessed his guilt – bribing Arsalan. Therefore what is quickly required is to institute a case against him and start his trial. Under the law, courts will not take long to punish him because he has admitted that he committed the illegality of bribing the Chief Justice's son to purchase justice. No evidence would be required to conclude the case against him.
The Supreme Court's special two-member bench comprising Justice Jawwad S. Khawaja and Justice Khilji Arif Hussain expected that Attorney General Irfan Qadir, who assisted it in this case and was fully abreast of all its aspects, "would set the machinery of the State in motion so that all those who may have committed any illegal acts, including Malik Riaz, Arsalan, Salman Ali etc. are pursued and brought to book with the full force and rigour of the law." But it is a hard fact that Qadir is an absolutely partisan person, who keeps airing his highly offensive views against the present Supreme Court specifically the chief justice. In fact, the government inducted him in this office only to take on the superior judiciary and he is doing this job very well. However, he is not the decision maker, and it is President Zardari, who will decide what to do with the accused. His decision is known to all and sundry even now – don't touch Malik Intriguers Caught In Their Own NetRiaz even slightly.
But everybody in the government, who is anybody, must keep in mind the words of the court: "All we need to do here is to highlight the underlying spirit of these laws, which, in essence, is the timeless wisdom encapsulated in the prophetic saying: The one who gives bribes as well as the one who takes bribes are doomed to hell fire. The people of Pakistan, who have chosen to be governed by a government of laws, are entitled to see a temporal manifestation of this principle."
Despite the involvement of his son in the shady affair, the Chief Justice acted gracefully, legally and constitutionally, and not only walked out of it unscathed but his standing and status went further high in the public eye. The special bench handed down a historic judgment while disposing of the suo motu notice that Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry had taken against his own son. It handed over the chief's son to the government to try him as an ordinary accused. It appears from the judgment that Malik Riaz did not speak truth even in his concise statement filed with the bench. Its order said that the documents attached with the statement relate only to 4.5% of the total money allegedly spent on behalf of Malik Riaz. The rest remains unaccounted for. This is because the total alleged amount spent as illegal gratification is almost Rs342.5 million. This spending is alleged to have been done by two distinct means: one, in the form of facilitation during the 'foreign trips', i.e. paying for tickets, accommodation, food and entertainment; second, by way of 'cash transfers'. It is the second kind of spending i.e. cash transfers which are alleged to comprise the largest chunk of the alleged bribes. So the three foreign trips in aggregate come to Rs15.5 million (Rs8.9m, Rs0.7m, and Rs5.9m); the rest, a staggering sum of Rs327 million is supposed to have been transferred as cash, i.e. currency notes of unspecified denomination. The documents which have been attached to the statement only deal with the foreign trips component of the alleged bribes. For the alleged cash transfers, no evidence at all (not even a bare affidavit of Salman Ali Khan) has been provided.
Even the dates of such cash transfers or their location have not been indicated. These transfers are alleged to have taken place in four installments. The largest such installment is said to have been Rs157 million. By any standards, that is a lot of money for anyone to be giving or receiving in the form of hard cash. It is not impossible. But it does raise some suspicion about the veracity of the narrative which any diligent or even rudimentary inquiry should have addressed. The fact of the matter is we have seen senior and intelligent persons buying into the claim, after seeing "evidence" which admittedly pertains to less than 5% of the alleged illegal transactions, the order noted. The ruling said another aspect of the case also becomes clear. Malik Riaz, going by his own admission, does not appear to be averse to bribing or attempting to bribe high functionaries of the State or other persons he considers to be influential. "We can only try to understand the motivation behind his strange conduct of doling out huge sums of money over a period starting from 2009 without ever getting any return for the same. A clue, however, is to be found in his concise statement wherein Malik Riaz has said that Arsalan has not only cheated him and his son-in-law but has also committed fraud, extortion and other offences under the Prevention of Corruption Act and under the National Accountability Ordinance. The inference, if any, to be drawn is not in relation to the Supreme Court; it is to be drawn in relation to Malik Riaz himself. It appears that Malik Riaz may not have encountered failure in the past in receiving favours against payments of illegal gratification. He may, therefore, in his own mind, have considered the lack of any relief or favourable orders from the Supreme Court as simply an attempt to extort money from him.
With such thinking, it may not have crossed his mind and he may actually have missed the reality that the apex court was only doing its job in accordance with the law and the Constitution, dealing with cases solely on the basis of merit." A very brief separate note written by Justice Khilji Arif Hussain is also an eye-opener. It said: "While we as judges are particularly in the public domain, all persons exercising State functions are in the eyes of the people. Although family members of public functionaries are, properly speaking, not performing State functions, the alleged facts of this case highlight the necessity of extreme caution and discretion in their private and public dealings and conduct."

 
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