In a matter of days, the allegations of the real estate tycoon Malik Riaz against Dr Arsalan Iftikhar, son of the Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry, has taken on the hue of a full blown conflict between the accuser and the judiciary. In shocking but unsubstantiated accusations of a bribe amounting to Rs 340 million, and financing of lavish foreign trips, the Riaz claim, notwithstanding its yet to be proved veracity, points to the most important judicial body’s head. The accused is the son of the CJP, thus presenting a more than unpleasant scenario where the establishment of proper distance between the two parties — the accused and the CJP — must be maintained at all costs. A simple civil matter (with possible criminal implications), no matter how preposterous or outrageous it may appear, did not merit a suo motu notice by the Supreme Court (SC), the redundancy of which was proved during the first hearing for lack of concrete evidence. This case must be pursued through the normal course. The recusing of the honourable CJP from the initial bench is a positive step, and the future proceedings of the case would be transparent and unbiased too if the consideration that the accused is the son of the CJP is not allowed to influence the proceedings.
As the recent video footage scandal erupted to the ire of the judiciary, the matter has taken a new turn. Considered an attempted manipulation of the case to tilt it in favour of Malik Riaz, the SC chastised PEMRA for its weak regulatory policies. In the wake of the SC’s injunction, another development is seen as one more complication in an already complex legal and moral conundrum. The Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) has put forth a demand for comprehensive accountability of not just the media house under fire, but all politicians, lawyers, bureaucrats, retired generals and media personalities who allegedly benefited from Malik Riaz’s financial ‘largesse’. This can only be welcomed. Maligning of the judiciary and the false blame game must be curbed and those flouting it should be taken to task. The case against the son should not in any way bring into question the reputation of the CJP. Nonetheless, this statement of the SCBA does not negate the irrationality of the one announced by various Bar Associations ‘banning’ the entry of senior lawyers Aitzaz Ahsan and Zahid Bokhari to the Bars. The shocking declaration is not merely baseless on lines of being unconstitutional and illegal, it is a clear violation of the fundamental rights of two law abiding individuals. Historically, to take up counsel for unpopular causes, against public sentiment, is deemed an action taken only by brave and principled souls who dare to swim against the tide. Representation of the prime minister in a contempt of court case may make Mr Ahsan a disliked presence in some circles, but that in no way warrants his expulsion from the Bars. Ditto Mr Bokhari, who being the counsel of Malik Riaz may have angered many hostile to the accuser, but that does not render him fit to be punished by his colleagues. Just as the media is regularly reprimanded for exhibiting biases, it is of paramount importance that the legal community rises above such narrowness. The refusal of lawyers to represent Bahria Town in any future proceedings is another indication of a clear cut bias against someone not liked by the legal vigilantes. If two TV anchors in a behind the scenes tête-à-tête are culprits of an exploitation of their influence, how will the actions of lawyers across the country to penalise Mr Aitzaz Ahsan and Mr Zahid Bokhari be judged? Are they not symbolising, notwithstanding their noble intention to protect the sanctity of the Honourable Court, that they would stop at nothing to ensure the halting of due process in a civil (and possibly criminal) suit? How does this square with their role as upholders of the law?
Courtesy: Daily Times
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