London June 7, 2012. Over the last three days, Justice Iftikhar Chaudhri, the Chief Justice of Pakistan, has come under intense pressureby reports of corruption in the press by his son, Dr Arsalan Iftikhar. Arsalan is reported to be in construction business. That he has been doing business with the biggest property developer in Pakistan – Malik Riaz of Bahria Towns – is not surprising. That Malik Riaz is involved in litigation with scores of persons and companies is also no surprise at all. He has complained to press reporters that he has lost most of the cases that came before courts. He has clearly not benefited from the CJ’s son working with his company. Those who know him insist that he may have tried to bribe but never blackmail. That Malik Riaz met press reporters and showed them documentary ‘proof’ of his son law financing three trips of Arsalan Iftikhar to London, is not the way Malik Riaz operates. What is more, Malik Riaz told reporters that he had ‘video’ evidence of the allegation he was making.
On the GEO TV programme ‘Aapas Ki Baat’, the unusually well-informed Najam Sethi asserted that Arsalan is not so innocent that he did not know why the son in law of Malik Riaz was trying to cultivate him. The suggestion was that the money was a bribe intended to influence the father of Arsalan. Since there is no evidence of the CJ having been influenced, there was clearly a more sinister purpose – not bribe but blackmail. The question arises ‘who benefits’ from the CJ being compromised. The answer is: the entire executive branch of government led by President Zardari and Prime Minister Gilani who has been convicted of ‘contempt’ of the Supreme Court. The next question is: who has the required capability to chase after Arsalan and collect documentary and video evidence of profligate expenditure by him? The answer is: 1) the Intelligence Bureau, who has a team permanently located in the High Commission in London, 2) Rehman Maliks’s company for private investigation which is still operative in London. Clearly, the ‘sting operation’ against Arsalan Iftikhar is the work of Rehman Malik; he has been disqualified to be a member of the Senate (and Interior Minister in consequence) because of his dual nationality, by a decision of the SC.
Since Malik Riaz cannot hope to gain anything from blackmailing or discrediting the CJ, the focus of the present investigative stage should be to discover who is the mastermind behind the ‘sting operation’. Malik Riaz may decide to present the ‘evidence’ or refrain from doing so. In either case, since the so called ‘evidence’ has been seen by reporters, it is unwise to ignore the episode. The amicable relation with the son in law of Malik Riaz and ‘excessive hospitality’ accepted by Arsalan are not criminal conduct. But the intention of those who collected documentary and video evidence does constitute a crime; the crime is blackmail. The CJ is held in high esteem in the country and a conspiracy to blackmail him is a serious matter. I am well nigh certain that the role of Rehman Malik is central to this sting operation.
The core of the present ruling clique have been five persons: President Zardari, Rehman Malik, Salman Farooki, Hussain Haqqani, and Frarahnaz Isphani. The last two are already out of office and out of the country. Rehman Malik, I am sure, is eager to become a state witness in the case. The sting operation by Rehman Malik provides an opportunity to do just that. President Zardari and his handlers abroad have been concentrating on two objectives – to demonise the military and discredit the high judiciary. He is as close to achieving the two objectives as being found out, discredited and forced to resign. The two sides are evenly balanced; the press would make a difference. If the author of the ‘sting operation’ is not identified right away and forced into the open, the delays of court procedures would deliver victory to discredited executive with uncertain consequences for the country.