ISLAMABAD: A whispering campaign involving the son of Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry in a financial scam finally landed in the Supreme Court on Wednesday, but preliminary hearing brought forth a stark reality that hard evidence to establish the involvement of Dr Arsalan Iftikhar was still missing.
However, a visibly disturbed chief justice, who had taken notice of allegations that his son had received Rs300 to 400 million from the owner of Bahria Town, vowed to deal strictly in accordance with the law if Dr Arsalan was found guilty.
“I will be the last person to spare my son or any relative,” the chief justice observed in an obvious indication to protect his honour and integrity at all cost.
But the chief justice ignored a request made by Attorney General Irfan Qadir to recuse himself, instead of heading the bench, as commanded by the code of conduct for judges, saying the dignity of the institution being of prime importance was involved.
“The chief justice being emotional should not hear the matter,” the AG said. But he was told that the court would pass an appropriate order on Thursday to answer the objection in the light of the Holy Quran and Sunnah as well as different precedence from the law.
Dr Arasalan appeared along with his counsel Sardar Ishaq in a packed to capacity courtroom. Bahria Town (Pvt) Ltd Chairman Malik Riaz, who was also summoned by the court, did not turn up as he is in Britain for a medical check-up.
Ahmed Ali, son of Riaz Malik and chief executive of Bahria Town, had also left for London, the court was told.
Throughout the proceedings, Dr Arsalan kept quiet, but told reporters outside the courtroom that he would accept whatever judgment was handed down against him. He denied allegations that he had received Rs300 to 400 million and enjoyed sojourns funded by the Bahria Town Ltd, but admitted that he had not been allowed to stay with his father until the court gave its verdict.
Riaz Malik’s personal staff officer Col Khalil appeared before the court, but to the bewilderment of the bench, said he had failed to establish contacts with the property tycoon despite several attempts to inform him that the court had summoned him. His health had not been good for the past one week, Col Khalil said, adding that during the last six months this was his first visit to London.
Col Khalil was repeatedly asked by the court not to be evasive and dodgy, but he kept on saying that he had no idea about the scandal.
Senior employees of Bahria Town including former director general of ISI Gen (retd) Ehtesham Zamir and former ISPR chief Maj-Gen Shaukat Sultan and others who appeared on the direction of the court were also clueless about the scandal.
TV anchor Hamid Mir appeared before the court and submitted a written statement admitting that no material or document was available with him to establish whatever had been stated in his talk show. But he said he had met Malik Riaz who showed him some documents but no video clips.
“Whatever I have gathered after seeing the documents was that it was not convincing and mere allegations though it contains some photocopies of spending made through a credit card, but no hard evidence. The documents suggest that Dr Arsalan had some business deals with the son or son-in-law of Malik Riaz,” Hamid Mir said.
But he attempted to answer the million dollar question as to who was behind the entire episode and said that in his opinion neither President Asif Zardari nor the PPP government was behind it, but could be those who were angry with the chief justice for pursuing the Balochistan missing persons’ case.
A reporter of Geo TV covering the proceedings contacted Geo anchor Kamran Khan on the court’s direction and informed it that the anchor also had no documents.
Maryam Rehman, vice chief executive of Bahria Town, said Malik Riaz had recently resigned from the post of chairman, but despite her assurance to the court that the secretary of Bahria Town was on his way from his Rawalpindi office, he did not turn up.
Advocate Ishaq, representing Dr Arsalan, told the court that he would not be in a position to say anything about the veracity of allegations which were the subject matter of different talk shows unless incriminating evidence was given to him.
The court ordered Chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan Mohammad Ali to produce record and documents relating to Bahria Town so that notices could be issued to its board of directors if needed.
Col Khalil was asked to contact Malik Riaz and told him to ensure his appearance before the court on Thursday, along with complete record of the allegations. Ahmed Ali is also required to appear and produce the same. The court ordered Kamran Khan to appear on Thursday and provide the material on the basis of which he had conducted the programme on June 5.
Chief Executive Officer of Geo Television Mir Ebrahim was directed to procure material and documents from Group Editor of The News Shaheen Sehbai either through email or fax, about which he had given indication in his interview widely circulated through You Tube, and submit them to the court.