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SC gives Riaz another week to hire lawyer

ISLAMABAD, June 21: Real estate magnate Malik Riaz on Thursday got another week to engage a lawyer to defend him in a contempt of court case, with the Supreme Court asking bar associations not to stop lawyers from taking up his case.

At the very outset of the proceedings, Mr Riaz told a three-member bench comprising Justice Mian Shakirullah Jan, Justice Tariq Parvez and Justice Amir Hani Muslim that he was still unable to find a lawyer to represent him in the court.

“No matter who I contact, he refuses to cooperate with me,” he remarked.

He said that while CIA contractor Raymond Davis was able to get a lawyer, he was facing difficulty in hiring a lawyer to represent him in the case.

Justice Jan observed that it was his (Riaz’s) problem if he could not get a lawyer. “But you have to respond to the show-cause notice given to you.”

At this Mr Riaz said he had contacted four lawyers, but all of them sought additional time to make up their mind.

He informed the court that he was facing difficulty in hiring a lawyer because of resolutions passed by bar associations in Islamabad and Rawalpindi, asking lawyers not to take up his cases. He said that lawyers as well as media personnel had turned against him.

Justice Jan then directed the Rawalpindi and Islamabad bar associations not to put restrictions on lawyers in this regard. He said in case Mr Riaz was unable to arrange a defence lawyer for himself, the state would provide him with one.

The court observed that a resolution was passed in India for not providing defence lawyer to Ajmal Kasab, but the Indian Supreme Court granted him the right to arrange a lawyer.

The court said bar associations should think several times before passing any resolution and see to it that their resolutions did not hamper dispensation of justice.

An advocate informed the court that no one was stopping Mr Riaz from defending himself and pointed out that he had a full legal team that was defending him in several cases in different courts.

Mr Riaz sought 10 more days from the court for engaging a counsel. The Supreme Court gave him seven days and adjourned proceedings till June 28.

Taking suo motu notice of Mr Riaz’s press conference of June 12 in which he had levelled serious allegations against Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry and his son Dr Arsalan Iftikhar, the Supreme Court had issued a show-cause notice on June 13.

Justice Jan, before issuing the show-cause notice, had read out the text of Riaz’s press conference in the court and said that it appeared that the judiciary was being scandalised. He said that Malik Riaz had ridiculed the court with the press conference and could be held in contempt of court.

The show-cause notice also said that Mr Riaz had made an attempt to obstruct justice.