The most recent suo moto action taken by the Chief Justice of Pakistan happens to be against one of his own sons, Dr Arsalan Iftikhar, on alleged reports that he sought favours from one of the biggest business magnates of Pakistan, Malik Riaz Hussain. Dr Iftikhar is not new to the controversies and was previously brought into the limelight during 2007 when Pervez Musharraf filed a reference against his father before the Supreme Judicial Council. The reference stated various allegations against Dr Iftikhar, however, none of them was proven to be true during the famous trial of chief justice.
The Chief Justice of Pakistan, Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, was suspended by Pervez Musharraf in March 2007, on various charges pertaining to corruption. According to the reference filed against the chief justice, one of the charges levelled against him was that he allegedly committed misconduct by employing his position to gain undue advantage for Dr Arsalan Iftikhar, his son.
The bizarre reference filed against the chief justice stated that Dr Iftikhar secured an overall C grade in intermediate examination, which was not sufficient to grant him admission in Bolan Medical College, in 1996. It was alleged that the then chief minister of Balochistan was approached to nominate Dr Iftikhar for admission against leftover foreign vacant seats/special seats.
According to the reference, nine years later, Dr Iftikhar was appointed as a medical officer at Institute of Public Health, Quetta in 2005. A few days after his initial appointment, the chief minister of Balochistan passed an order, which called for Dr Iftikhar’s promotion as section officer in health department.
The orders were allegedly given to the then chief secretary of Balochistan who referred the case to Services and General Administration Department (S&GAD), as the authority to approval postings and transfers of secretariat staff.
Ironically, the reference also stated that in the August of 2005, the Ministry of Interior addressed a letter to the chief secretary of Balochistan regarding Dr Iftikhar’s services being required in FIA.
In September of 2005, the Ministry of Interior issued a notification to appoint Dr Iftikhar as Assistant Director in the FIA. In the April of 2006, Dr Iftikhar was promoted to the position of Deputy Director in FIA.
After being promoted in FIA, it is alleged that a campaign was launched to recruit Dr Iftikhar in the police service.
The reference also mentions that in the May of 2006, the Ministry of Interior issued a letter to Commandment National Police Academy, Islamabad to attach Dr Iftikhar for field training along with under training ASPs.
A few days later the Ministry of Interior issued another letter which stated that after the completion of Dr Iftikhar’s training at National Police Academy, the services of the trainee be made available to Punjab Police.
In the mean time the Prime Minister Secretariat was allegedly approached to permanently induct Dr Iftikhar as an employee of the Police Service of Pakistan. However, his permanent recruitment required an amendment in the Police Service of Pakistan Rules 1985, which could only be introduced through president’s approval. The authorities claim that the chief justice exerted immense pressure on the Prime Minister Secretariat to ensure his son’s permanent induction in the police force.
The aforementioned charges, along with other cases, brought about the suspension of Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry in March 2007. It triggered an unprecedented wave of protests and resignations by lawyers and judges including that of Justice Jawwad S Khwaja, who is now a part of the judges’ panel in Arsalan Iftikhar’s graft case.
The reference and charges filed by former president Musharraf were challenged by the chief justice in the Supreme Court of Pakistan as he believed that the Supreme Judicial Council will manoeuvre the judgment according to the president’s will.
Chaudhry was represented by a team of five lawyers including Aitzaz Ahsan, Ali Ahmad Kurd and Tariq Mehmood. He was reinstated on July 20, 2007 based on the ruling given by the thirteen-member bench of Supreme Court of Pakistan headed by Justice Khalil-ur-Rehman Ramday. The irony remains that Aitzaz Ahsan, who defended Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani in the contempt of court case filed against the premier, was one of the most important members of CJ’s team. It is important to mention that Ahsan and his campaign played an important role in his reinstatement.
Shortly afterwards, Mushraraf imposed emergency in Pakistan, during which chief justice and his family were under house arrest. The house arrest and the anarchy resulted in the famous lawyers’ movement and the long march against the unpopular dictatorial regime of Pervez Musharraf.
It was also one of the rarest moments in the history of Pakistan’s politics during which all the major political parties, excluding MQM, worked in unison for the cause of reinstating the chief justice. The move forced Musharraf to give up one of his two posts and in the end toppled his government.
The idea of long march from Lahore to Islamabad was floated when President Zardari backed out of the deal. Opposition Nawaz Sharif threatened the president that he will lead thousand of lawyers and political activists to march towards Islamabad. It is alleged that Prime Minister Gilani intervened and forced the president to reinstate Iftikhar Chaudhry as the chief justice.
Coming back to the current graft case against Dr Iftikhar, it is being alleged that he has accepted up to Rs 400 million in bribes from Bahria Town’s Malik Riaz Hussain.
It is also alleged that between 2009 and 2011, Malik Riaz Hussain sponsored his trips to London with credit cards to be used at his discretion.
However, this time around, the chief justice of Pakistan has taken suo moto action against his son and the business tycoon. The case is being heard by a three-judge bench comprising the chief justice himself, Justice Jawwad S Khwaja and Justice Khilji Arif Hussain. The chief justice has said that if the charges levelled against his son are proven to be true then he will be penalised in accordance with the law.
The outcome of the case is yet to be ascertained, however, it is important to understand that the ruling of this particular case will be historical. It also gives one hope to think that the chief justice has impartially taken action against the reports of his son’s alleged involvement in corruption and that the country is moving towards a progressive society where the elites are also reprimanded, if found guilty.
Most of the Pakistanis hope that the charges levelled against Dr Iftikhar will be proven wrong and the justice will be served. The CJ’s stepping down from the bench on objections by the Attorney General Irfan Qadir is a welcome step.
It is hoped that not only must justice be seen to be done, it must also be done and that the country will not see another crisis, one similar to the crisis which resulted in emergency and toppled a military government.