Behind the ‘Familygate’ Smokescreen

By Muhammad Abd al-Hameed

The Arsalan Iftikhar affair has made history but for the wrong reason. It may be the only case that was based entirely on hearsay and yet the Supreme Court took it up. Even in its preliminary stage, the affair has so many intriguing aspects that an investigative journalist can explore and bring out a bestseller non-fiction novel.

Meanwhile, the affair has exposed incompetence of our media, which failed to note what was obvious and could not put facts in perspective. And it was too afraid to find out and disclose who was behind it and why because that would have been entering the territory

جہاں فرشتوں کے بھی پر جلتے ہیں
Let us consider some facts.

What happened and where?
Arsalan Iftikhar and his family members enjoyed paid excursions in England and Monte Carlo. Salman Ahmad and his wife paid all expenses. They also made other payments to Arsalan. Both are British citizens. (Salman Ahmad is son-in-law of Malik Riaz Husain.)

A British national paying expense of a guest from abroad and also making big payments to him was no crime. Even if the host asked his guest, a foreign national, to help his father-in-law through his father, it was no concern of the British authorities because it was not an obstruction of justice in England. Moreover, Salman did not file a case against Arsalan for extortion or blackmail, nor did Arsalan complain about an attempt to bribe him. In other words, everything happened abroad and nothing was against the law. And Malik Riaz was kept out of the whole affair very meticulously.

Even here, Malik Riaz did not say anything against the Chief Justice and he did not file a case against anybody. The whispering campaign was also against Arsalan, not his father. Under the law, father is not responsible in any way for the acts of his son. There was no complainant, no defendant, not even an FIR. Then, how come the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court took up the case suo motu?

وہ سارے فسانہ میں جس کا ذکر نہ تھا
وہ بات ان کو بہت ناگوار گزری ہے

Who made the recording?
Those who believe that only ISI could record Arsalan’s activities in England must be really dumb. If ISI used Pakistani nationals or Britons of Pakistan origin, Arsalan and his family would have become suspicious. If caught, they would be in serious trouble for invasion of privacy. Moreover, the hotels and stores would not have cooperated with agents of a foreign agency.

If an agency was involved, it could be only the British Intelligence, MI5, which has a countrywide network. (Due to close relationship with CIA, it would have easily agreed to work for it.) Moreover, luxury hotels allow it to bug some rooms, where target guests are put up. The bugging is so sophisticated that even whispers are recorded clearly.

Salman could have arranged recording on his own by hiring some licensed private detectives. The quality of the video recording will show who did it, if and when it is released.

Why Malik Riaz took so long?
Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry was restored in 2009. Some time afterwards, cultivation of Arsalan started. Every expense made for Arsalan during his visits abroad was documented. The total came to Rs 342 million, including cash payments. If it was to get favorable judgments from the Supreme Court, there was no gain. It is difficult to believe that a businessman like Malik Riaz could still be so patient as to continue payments and that too for several years. If there were no positive result soon enough, he would have stopped payments. Why? The objective was not favorable judgments. Then what? We shall come to that a little later.

Why expose the affair now?
Major events like the disclosure about Arsalan do not occur suddenly. Time is chosen with meticulous care and keeping in view the current situation. Some journalists did ask the question but could not think of possible reasons. The answer was related directly to the coming elections, as we shall discuss it a little later.

Now we may digress before reaching the conclusion.

The 2008 elections was the first step of the US plan for destruction of our country. According to a PPP source, the plan was to keep for two more terms the set-up that emerged in 2008, as it was doing what the US wanted. So, the second election was to return the same governments (PPP in center, PML-N in Punjab, others as they were.) The army was to remain neutral, as it was in 2008, making it easier to get the desired result.

The abysmal popularity of government is obvious. So, PPP and N League may not get votes close to what they got the last time. But in marginal constituencies, money could get desired success. Haroon ar-Rasheed, a well-known columnist of Jang, knows more than he has been expressing in his columns and TV talk shows. According to him, three billion rupees have been allocated for rigging. Money may be distributed through Malik Riaz. Add to it the huge funds that MNAs and MPAs have collected through corruption. The course seems clear for action replay. Or is it?

Chief Justice is not known to be anti-US but he has no love for Zardari because he took too long in restoring him. Therefore, it is quite likely that he might give unfavorable judgments on election issues. He has to be neutralized if desired election results are to be ensured.

So, work started in earnest, with the collaboration of Malik Riaz, who has been a key power player in recent times. Arsalan was to be the device that could demolish the Chief Justice. What was spent on Arsalan, 3-4 million dollars, may seem a large sum but was just peanuts by American standard.

Conclusion

If the objective was to pave the way for rigged elections, the timing was perfect to open the Pandora’s Box, just when the election is about to be announced. As for Malik Riaz, he would be quite happy to get more opportunities for making money in lieu of his services. His cultivation of Arsalan for three years will finally pay off.

Will America have its way as it did in 2008? Will the army as an institution change its mind and decide not to allow elections in the near future? Will it set up an interim government that may transform everything in the country? Wait and see.

پردہ اٹھنے کی منتظر ہے نگاہ

Muhammad Abd al-Hameed

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