JUST yesterday it was one of the most significant corruption scandals in Pakistan’s history. But the Arsalan Iftikhar-Malik Riaz saga barely makes it to prime time television or front pages anymore. Even by Pakistani standards it is extraordinary how soon the media has forgotten the whole sordid affair despite the fact that its real implications go far beyond the behaviour of two individuals. Partly this is a natural result of Pakistan’s frenetic news cycle. But given the enormity of the case, involving as it does possible misconduct not just among individuals but in the supreme judiciary and the media, the speed with which it is disappearing from public discourse suggests a general reluctance, outside of officials investigating it, to look too deeply into the matter.
Meanwhile, Dr Arsalan is resisting giving a statement to the joint investigation committee appointed after the Supreme Court called for an enquiry over a month ago. He is within his legal rights to claim bias on the part of the investigators. But for one, his allegation that everyone from NAB to the FIA to the police are unfit to investigate the case because of prejudice against him or links to Mr Riaz leaves no one to carry out the probe. This is a case in which money trails have to be unravelled, and people with technical expertise are needed to deal with it. More importantly, it involves the independence of the Supreme Court itself, and it erupted at a time when the SC was locked in a contest for moral supremacy with the government. The country deserves to know what the motives were behind Mr Riaz’s disclosures, whether the son of the chief justice took bribes in return for promises of favourable verdicts and to what extent the chief justice was aware of what was going on, even if favourable judgments were not delivered. Dr Arsalan can always legally challenge the findings of the JIT if he doesn’t trust them. But as the SC itself implied when it refused to stay the investigation while it hears Dr Arsalan’s objections, the probe itself needs to be able to proceed.