Caesar’s wife and the burden of suspicion

So does My Lord the Chief Justice, on whose side emotionally guys like me will always gravitate, realise how the wheel comes full circle? He was our St George pursuing the dragon of corruption and wrongdoing in high places. And since the stars are not without their share of irony, sharp and interested eyes are seeing the footprints of the dragon reaching up to his own front door.
It doesn’t matter whether young Arsalan, his son, was the beneficiary of gifts coming from the generous hands of Malik Riaz, arguably the most powerful person in Pakistan today, more powerful in my opinion than the commander-in-chief of the Pakistan Army. Former generals and admirals are in his pay. Islam may be our avowed faith but the passion which really sways our good and great is connected to the holy kingdom called real estate, whose crowned head is Malik Riaz.
What matters is that Arsalan has been touched by the breath of suspicion and when it comes to Caesar’s wife, or son as in this case, that is enough. Both, if the state of the Republic is to be counted as healthy, must be above suspicion.
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CAESAR’S WIFE AND THE BURDEN OF SUSPICION

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by Ayaz Amir

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So does My Lord the Chief Justice, on whose side emotionally guys like me will always gravitate, realise how the wheel comes full circle? He was our St George pursuing the dragon of corruption and wrongdoing in high places. And since the stars are not without their share of irony, sharp and interested eyes are seeing the footprints of the dragon reaching up to his own front door.

It doesn’t matter whether young Arsalan, his son, was the beneficiary of gifts coming from the generous hands of Malik Riaz, arguably the most powerful person in Pakistan today, more powerful in my opinion than the commander-in-chief of the Pakistan Army. Former generals and admirals are in his pay. Islam may be our avowed faith but the passion which really sways our good and great is connected to the holy kingdom called real estate, whose crowned head is Malik Riaz.

What matters is that Arsalan has been touched by the breath of suspicion and when it comes to Caesar’s wife, or son as in this case, that is enough. Both, if the state of the Republic is to be counted as healthy, must be above suspicion.

There is another irony at work here. The same media forces which gifted us Memogate, making a fireworks out of a molehill, are behind this latest scandal. Not a shred of evidence has been produced showing the money connection between Arsalan and Malik Riaz. It may well exist but we could have done with some evidence and investigative reporting. The commentaries could have come later. But it has been the other way around here, the Supreme Court calling for details and everyone concerned earnestly engaged in scurrying for cover.

This is exactly what happened in Memogate, the media blitz so strong that the CJ and the army chief both fell for it. This time there’s been no blitz, just a whispering campaign. But so insidious that CJ Chaudhry felt constrained to act. But, I fear, he may have acted in haste. After all, this was a matter involving his son. As a trained lawyer, a former advocate general of Balochistan, it should not have been difficult for him to get at the truth, sitting Arsalan across the table, and then, if any impropriety was established, deciding what to do.

Even if there is any truth to the worst of the allegations about Arsalan, he is guilty of impropriety. A son of My Lord Iftikhar Chaudhry of all people should have nothing to do with someone like the honourable Riaz Malik. If they do they are courting temptation. And if, as a consequence, they find themselves in a soup they have no one to blame except themselves.

When the Islamabad Defence Housing Authority (DHA) Bill came up before the Defence Committee of the National Assembly I opposed it strongly and wrote a dissenting note, on the simple grounds that the army should receive no special favours when it came to housing colonies.

Malik Riaz had a deep interest in the matter and kept calling me. (Where his interest is involved, let me say, he is nothing if not persistent.) Against my better judgment I was persuaded to come on a guided tour of DHA Islamabad, the great Malik at the wheel himself and I on the front seat…taking in the vast construction work underway, bulldozers working day and night, the land acquired, some of it forcibly. It was all very impressive and I felt some of my cynicism subsiding. Then there occurred an error which set me thinking. When the tour came to an end and it was time for coffee, ready for a PowerPoint presentation, stick in hand, was a rather sheepish-looking administrator of the DHA. What on earth was he doing there, less administrator and more like a hired underling? I knew I had made a mistake. Making my excuses I hurriedly left.

Arsalan being who he was should have known what company to keep. Even if the sums being bandied about – 30, 40 crores – are put to one side, the mere association between him and the tycoon in question should count as an impropriety, especially when we are talking of St George on his white horse and the king of real estate with so many irons in the fire.

But such things are not easily proven in the Islamic Republic. We are a remarkably free country in this sense: anything goes. Who’ll depose against Arsalan? If we know our Malik Riaz, not him. So my guess is that all we are likely to get is another Memogate, sound and fury amounting to very little, Chaudhry partisans solemnly shaking their heads and saying that in investigating his own son he has emulated the example of the first caliphs; and media gladiators, of whom there is never a shortage in our land, throwing dark hints about the forces behind this conspiracy, and foretelling disaster and constitutional mayhem.

The silliness has already started. Malik Riaz may be the man behind the rumours but he has said nothing on record, nothing that can be quoted or held against him. Giving currency to the rumours and bearing witness are some champions of the TV screen. But if the case is to proceed and My Lord the CJ clear his name and honour, it must rest on something more solid.

So, not surprisingly, we are being treated to the spectacle of My Lord the CJ trying to glean information from Malik Riaz’s Bahria Town whose officials, retired generals amongst them, are playing mum, as was only to be expected. And since we are not going to get media personalities deposing anything on oath anytime soon, what we will be left with is another trail of unsubstantiated rumour.

The record of recent judicial commissions is not very inspiring. The Abbottabad Commission is still dancing in the shadows. Memogate is something the SC would give anything to forget. In the Asghar Khan case the SC is taking its time charting a clear course even though solemnly-affirmed testimonies are available in this case. Given this shining record, are we likely to see anything clear-cut or dramatic in something as hazy as the Arsalan allegations?

What this latest episode emphasises is a truth we are all familiar with: in the Turkish bath of Pakistani politics no one is fully clothed. To a lesser or greater degree everyone appears to be on the take. Standards that should be guiding us simply aren’t there. We all seem to be in a hurry to get ahead, no matter what the means. Hence the conundrum we face: while the country as a whole seems to be doing poorly, favoured individuals, and their number is not small, seem to be doing very well: collective regression or impoverishment, individual progress.

One can go on and on and make a dismal litany of it. But just imagine the consequences of this latest piece of national theatre: for all his faults, and uncharitable souls can point to a few, My Lord Chaudhry is someone so many of us have looked up to. Our history is full of judicial stuffiness, the higher judiciary pandering to the whims, dancing to the tunes, of tin-pot dictators. Chaudhry has asserted judicial independence and taken up issues, like those of missing persons, no apex court has dared touch before. Dragons may not have been slain but a host of good causes have been upheld.

And now ugly rumour arrives at his door. But he should take it in his stride. Such things happen but they come and go. If there is one thing constant about life it is that nothing is permanent, everything passes. This too will pass. And perhaps, if we are lucky, we may learn something from the experience.

Tailpiece: A newspaper picture says it all: former generals Shaukat Sultan and Ehtisham Zamir representing Bahria Town in the Supreme Court. Generals of the Wehrmacht acting as real estate agents: mind-boggling thought.

Ayaz Amir is a columnist and a politician. A member of the National Assembly of Pakistan, Amir is known for his op-eds which appear in the leading national dailies of Pakitan. Ayaz Amir is a liberal who passionately argues the case for rule of law, democracy, and an end to failed militay rule alongwith extremist versions of Islam.  Email:: winlust@yahoo.com

More from Ayaz Amir on Wonders of Pakistan

1. What the ages couldn’t accomplish… 2. Pakistan’s Punjab problem 3. Where nonsense has a life of its own 4. Punjab can no longer live in a state of denial 5. Changing the Way We Have Been 6. What’s Pakistan being taken for?
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3 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. […] 1. Caesar’s wife and the burden of suspicion 2.  What the ages couldn’t accomplish… 3. Pakistan’s Punjab problem 4.Where nonsense has a life of its own 5. Punjab can no longer live in a state of denial 6. Changing the Way We Have Been 7. What’s Pakistan being taken for? […]

  2. I have an excited analytical eyesight for the purpose
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  3. […] 1. Caesar’s wife and the burden of suspicion 2.  What the ages couldn’t accomplish… 3. Pakistan’s Punjab problem 4.Where nonsense has a life of its own 5. Punjab can no longer live in a state of denial 6. Changing the Way We Have Been 7. What’s Pakistan being taken for? […]


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