ISLAMABAD: Dr Shoaib Suddle-led Judicial Commission has sent a letter to the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) directing it to produce the tax returns of Dr Arsalan Iftikhar, son of Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, Malik Riaz Ahmed, and Ahmed Khalil who acted as a go-between the two in the alleged deals to buying justice from the SC judges.
It has been done a couple of days after issuing the last notice to real estate tycoon, Malik Riaz, ordering him to appearbefore the Suddle Commission on October 5. According to a source who read the commission’s letter to the FBR, tax details have been called for examining the net worth of all the actors in the ongoing case which put the integrity of the Supreme Court in question.
The Supreme Court had appointed a commission to investigate allegations of a Rs342 million business deal between Dr Arsalan and Malik Riaz. A petition filed by Malik Riaz on September 26 prayed to the court to recall its August 30 order. The commission was also informed in writing that Malik Riaz would not appear before it until the Supreme Court decides the review petition.
As the Supreme Court has issued no order restraining Suddle Commission from investigation, the probe is in progress. A source privy to the commission’s working said different ways and means are being considered to ensure the production of Malik Riaz in case he keeps insisting on non-appearance. “The notice issued to Malik Riaz now is last and final,” said an official.
Zahid Bukhari, the counsel of Malik Riaz, claimed that the Shoaib Suddle Commission was formed without his client’s consultation. Bukhari, on the basis of a news report, claimed that Dr Shoaib Suddle had attended the wedding of Dr Arsalan Iftikhar. Apparently, it seems that Suddle would be unable to undertake the investigation in a transparent manner, he said, talking to journalists the other day in Supreme Court building.
However, the critics of the Malik Riaz review petition ruled out the “charge-sheet” furnished against Dr Suddle that his decision of attending chief justice’s son wedding made him unable to conduct investigation transparently. It was not only Dr Suddle, they argue, but many a lawyer in attendance in the wedding. Eminent lawyer like Aitzaz Ahsan, the counsel of Malik Riaz who had met with the chief justice on Malik’s behalf complaining about Dr Arsalan, was also present in the wedding functions attended by Dr Suddle.
What if Aitzaz had been tasked the investigation assignment, they argue, Malik Riaz might not have scandalised his attending of the ceremony.
Also the fact remains that Dr Suddle as FTO enjoys the status equivalent to the judge of Supreme Court. Attending a brother judge’s function is not something scandalous even by rules governing conduct of the judges. It was not Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry but President Asif Ali Zardari who appointed Dr Suddle on this slot, they argue. Having been invited at a wedding function where other brother judges were also invited, was a routine business. They also vehemently denied that Dr Suddle was there to receive the guests.
How “close” relationship exists between the chief justice and Dr Suddle is apparent from the fact that an application filed by the latter’s office in the Supreme Court eight months ago still awaits to be fixed for hearing. In February, the FTO filed a petition in the Supreme Court praying that all complaints by FBR against the decision of Ombudsman Dr Suddle at four provincial high courts may be clubbed together in Islamabad High Court. Doing so could have saved the time and money of FTO and FBR. The petition has not been fixed for hearing as to-date forcing the FTO office to deliberate on the option of withdrawing the petition. Had there relations been defined on the pattern of watching each other’s back or meetings held so frequently, Dr Suddle would have done something for his comfort through expeditious disposal of this petition.
While establishing close ties between Dr Suddle and Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, Malik Riaz’s counsel Bokhari ignored the very fact that the present SC under the same CJ had reversed Dogar court’s order to give four post-retirement extra years to Dr Suddle in the Police Service of Pakistan.
Those casting doubts on the integrity and independence of the apex court are reminded of the April 21, 2009 Supreme Court decision reversing the June 2008 order of Dogar court which had granted post-retirement extensions to police officers accused in the Mir Murtaza Bhutto assassination case to serve for a period they had remained suspended, thus putting on the line the job of the-then Director General of the Intelligence Bureau Dr Shoaib Suddle, the main beneficiary of the earlier decision.