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Arsalan issue: Riaz counsel suggests commission

June 12, 2012

ISLAMABAD, June 11: A counsel representing the powerful property tycoon Malik Riaz came up with a novel idea on Monday to deal with the controversy involving Dr Arsalan Iftikhar, son of the chief justice, by suggesting to the Supreme Court to appoint a commission like it did to handle the memorandum scam.

“Either refer the matter at hand for investigation to an investigating agency or appoint a commission for which we also have precedence when the Supreme Court on the basis of newspaper reports and talk shows had ordered setting up of a commission to resolve the memo scandal,” Advocate Zahid Bokhari said.

He was appearing before a two-judge bench which initiated suo motu proceedings after rumours of shady business deals of the chief justice’s son with Malik Riaz made it to prime time TV shows.

The counsel who earlier represented former ambassador to US Husain Haqqani before the commission of inquiry on the memo scandal also requested the court to grant him at least two days so that he could file a concise statement after consulting his client who was reaching home on Monday night.

The court, however, ignored the request and ordered the counsel to submit the statement by Tuesday. It also asked Ahmed Ali, son of Malik Riaz, to appear the same day.

“We should not let this thing drag unnecessary,” Justice Jawwad S. Khawaja said. “Riaz’s presence is not necessary and he could have instructed his counsel by telephone. I don’t really appreciate it; he should have complied with orders.”

The judge said the court would conduct the proceedings in a professional manner and this trial would not be conducted by the media which should also realise the delicate role it had to play.

The observation came when Sardar Ishaq, representing Dr Arsalan, referred to his two-page application highlighting scurrilous comments made in a talk show which he described as too provocative. A television anchor of a private channel had disclosed during the show that Riaz had told him that he had certain videos and pictures of the mother and sister of Dr Arsalan in London which would be released on the social media soon.

Dr Arsalan also wanted to speak to the court to seek an order, saying the matter now involved his family which he would not tolerate, but would confront with full force. He said the name of Riaz and his own name should be put on the exit control list (ECL).

“I am even ready to go to jail but please listen to me,” Dr Arsalan said but the court ordered him to speak through his counsel and said he would be sent to jail if need be.

Sardar Ishaq emphasised that media persons were damaging his client’s reputation and they should be restrained from raising such issues in talk shows and should also be asked to behave in a proper manner.  Advocate Bokhari clarified that his client had never levelled such allegations. He assured the court that his client would never do anything which would not be in accordance with the law.

In compliance with an order issued on June 7, the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) submitted a sealed copy of tax returns from 1986-87 (of Bahria Town), but the assessment for several years was missing. The court ordered the FBR to re-submit complete details of tax returns for each year since the organisation’s inception.

The court asked the counsel representing both sides to suggest the nature of offence under the statute.

Sardar Ishaq suggested Section 420 of the Pakistan Penal Code which deals with cheating, while Zahid Bokhari pressed Section 383 which deals with extortion.

But Justice Khilji Arif observed that in his tentative opinion Section 383 was not attracted.

The court also asked Attorney General Irfan Qadir to look into the allegations and talk to the interior ministry for providing security to Dr Arsalan. In his application, Dr Arsalan had complained about threats to his life and his family.