Riaz hurls three questions at CJ
By Nasir Iqbal and Imran Ali Teepu
ISLAMABAD: One dust storm hit Islamabad on Tuesday afternoon, but Malik Riaz hit the capital twice on the same day.
His first attack was launched in the Supreme Court in the morning, where he turned up surrounded by more bodyguards than any of the other high-profile respondents, who have been dragged to the court in recent times, have been able to boast of.
In a statement read out to the court by his lawyer Zahid Bokhari, Riaz spelt out for the first time all the allegations and more that had been hurled at the chief justice’s son on the property tycoon’s behalf by many others since June 5.
The 83-page statement contained allegations, images of cheques, aeroplane tickets, amounts of money spent and photographs of hotels Arsalan Chaudhry is said to have stayed in at the expense of Riaz.
However, for once the more dramatic moment of the day came outside of the courtroom.
After the court proceedings were over, Riaz and his team appeared in front of the media at a large five-star hotel where he launched his second, more lethal but less substantiated attack on the judiciary.
In his thick Punjabi accent and an even more aggressive tone, he accused the chief justice directly – but vaguely. Clutching a small size Quran in his hand as he held forth, he reminded people of the press conference held last year by Zulfikar Mirza, who was once known as a friend of President Asif Ali Zardari.
Riaz began by asking the chief justice three questions: a) “He [chief justice] should explain how many times he met me in the dead of the night and whether or not Arsalan Iftikhar was present there?”
b) “Was the chief justice not present at several meetings that took place at the residence of my business partner Ahmed Khalil where the prime minister [Yousuf Raza Gilani] and a sitting judge of the Supreme Court were also present?”
c): “I ask the chief justice to hold a Quran and clarify how long he has known about the role of Dr Arsalan and why he failed to take notice until now?”
Visibly angry, he used strong language and claimed his back had been pushed against the wall. He called Arsalan the ‘don’ of the judiciary and accused the judiciary of screwing him.
Later he said again, “In Punjab we are nailed by Chaudhry Nisar and in the federal capital the Supreme Court is screwing me.”
By the end, the property tycoon had the audience thoroughly confused when he emphasised that he “had respect for chief justice”.
When people pressed him to vow that he had not given money to any journalists, the press conference ended abruptly. Riaz walked out after promising that he would hold another press conference in three days time.
However, his three questions kicked off another bout of non-stop talking on television channels that had barely recovered from the afternoon when they reported on Riaz’s statement and the allegations within.
Before long, the SC, which traditionally stays away from the media, was forced to jump in.
The elusive registrar of the Supreme Court, Dr Faqir Hussain, spoke to a news channel and said that Riaz had met the CJ a couple of times when the latter was deposed.
The registrar added that the tycoon had wanted to arrange a meeting between Zardari and the CJ, an offer which was turned down.
Similarly, Barrister Aitzaz Ahsan also spoke to a channel and explained that he had briefed the CJ about the allegations against his son though it was not clear if the former president of the Supreme Court Bar Association mentioned when this meeting was held.
In his statement Riaz accused Dr Arsalan Iftikhar of cheating him and his son-in-law and alleged that Arsalan had committed fraud and extortion under the Prevention of Corruption Act and the National Accountability Ordinance (NAO).
He further alleged that Ahmed Khalil, a business partner in the Bahria Town (Pvt) Ltd, had introduced Arsalan to Salman Ahmed, a British national who was involved in the property business in UK.
Riaz claimed that Arsalan had told Ahmed Khalil that he knew about the Bahria Town cases pending before his father (CJ) and that he could get these resolved in favour of Riaz.
Though the property tycoon admitted that he never got any relief from the court whatsoever, the statement revealed that he paid a whopping Rs342 million to the chief justice’s son over years. At the same time, Riaz said that he had respect and regard for the Supreme Court and its judges, including the CJ, and did not intend to ridicule or disrespect them.
Interestingly, the statement made it clear that President Asif Ali Zardari, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and any other political leader or a political party or agency were not involved in this incident and had not prompted or helped Riaz.
He also acknowledged that he had met television anchors but denied that he had given any interview to any journalist that appeared in two newspapers on June 7.
Suo motu questioned
Apart from his allegations, Riaz also questioned the present suo motu proceedings. He argued that they were not legal as the issue did not entail any question of enforcement of any fundamental rights.
He also complained about the ‘preferential’ treatment meted out to Dr Arsalan by the court; only the details of Riaz’s assets, accounts, income tax and wealth tax have been requisitioned from the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) and not those of Arsalan.
Reference to NAB
Attorney General Irfan Qadir also added his two bit to the proceedings by suggesting that the matter be referred to NAB.
Later the proceedings were adjourned till July 14 when the two-member bench of Justice Jawwad S. Khawaja and Justice Khilji Arif Hussain will decide whether or not to appoint a commission or refer the scam to NAB or any other investigating agency.