Another week, another rough start for Malik Riaz and Co



ISLAMABAD, June 25: The week started off on a busy note for the lawyers of Malik Riaz as benches of the Supreme Court and Islamabad High Court heard cases implicating him and his accomplices.

A bench of the Supreme Court headed by Justice Jawwad S. Khawaja that was hearing around a dozen cases of land grabbing and payment disputes suggested that Malik Riaz’s admission of paying Rs 350 million for his acquittal in a murder case could lead to a fresh case on charges of perjury and subverting justice.

Meanwhile, a two-member bench of the Islamabad High Court maintained the status quo on the matter of the presidential pardon to Mohammad Basharat, a gunman of property tycoon Malik Riaz who was sentenced to lifetime imprisonment for killing a rival in the parking of Islamabad district courts in 2009.

Justice Khawaja of the Supreme Court while heading a two-member bench said that action would be taken against Malik Riaz for paying bribes to the tune of Rs350 million to pave the way for his acquittal in a murder case.

Also present in the courtroom were dozens of persons who were allegedly forced to transfer thousands of acres of land to Malik Riaz, his son or other nominees after intimidating them or implicating in false cases followed by arrest till transfer of their land either for free or for peanuts.

The court at the very outset of the proceedings asked Director-General Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) Fayyaz Khan Leghari to read out its order in the murder case of security guard Raja Fayyaz.

While he was reading the order, Justice Khawaja interjected and said that the murder of Raja Fayyaz remained un-avenged.

He further stated that the judicial inquiry by District and Sessions Judge Mazhar Minhas was not seen by the police, and ordered the DG FIA to look into it as the case file was now with the FIA.

Zahid Bokhari, the counsel for Bahria Town, strongly objected to this and said that the report the court was referring to was under challenge. He said the court cannot direct the investigation. “This is the only case where the hearing is still going on after the payment of compensation and acquittal,” he informed the court.

Justice Khawaja though stood his ground and said that everything will be done in accordance with the law.

“We are now talking of another possible criminal case. The FIR in the murder case will be put aside, however, it is clear that justice was subverted through false testimonies and witnesses,” he commented.

He also recalled that one of the witnesses Shaukat Ali claimed to have identified a dozen people in the lights of the car and subsequently filed statements to change the names of the people at least thrice.

Following this, Mr Bokhari argued that the courts cannot give observations before the investigation officer that can prejudice his mind. “The Supreme Court is becoming part of the investigation and monitoring it, which is not in accordance
with the law,” he pleaded.

“If the court is not satisfied with the investigation, it means that it wants investigation in line with its observations,” he added.

On the other hand, Justice Khawaja insisted: “I will keep on saying this, it does not meet the normal standards of investigation an intelligent police officer is supposed to conduct.”

Justice Khawaja opined that he asks questions to ensure fairness, and that a judge should speak out his concerns to provide an opportunity to the party to address it and stressed that silence despite questions in mind may cause prejudice to the litigant.He said the court will dispense justice as it was its duty and right of the people, without caring if someone expects justice from it or not. He told the DG FIA that no observation should interfere with or prejudice the investigation.

Mr Bokhari also pointed out that it had been decided that the case will be heard by a three member bench and said this was also requirement of the law and the Supreme Court rules. Justice Khawaja promised to pass on the plea to the Chief Justice who had decided during the last hearing to detach himself from the cases against Bahria Town and Malik Riaz. The court will start day-to-day hearing of the cases from next Monday (July 2).

Meanwhile, a division bench of the IHC comprising Justice Riaz Ahmed Khan and Justice Azim Khan Afridi on Monday issued orders that Mohammad Basharat, presently confined in the Rawalpindi Central Jail Adiala, should not be released till further orders from the court.

The IHC division bench was hearing a petition filed by Chaudhry Mohammad Ashraf, the former president of IHC Bar Association, in which he had challenged the pardoning of a convict sentenced under the Anti-terrorism Act (ATA).

According to the petition, on January 9, 2010 Malik Riaz had attended proceedings at a sessions court of Islamabad and as he was being driven out was stopped by aggrieved people. Basharat had then opened indiscriminate fire at the other party that killed a man named Hamid. An FIR was lodged against Basharat under the ATA, the trial of which was carried out in Rawalpindi. ATC judge Malik Mohammad Akram Awan had awarded him life imprisonment in 2011 and sent him to Adiala Jail.

On June 13, ministry of interior had conveyed President Asif Ali Zardari’s decision to pardon the convict to the home secretary of Punjab and requested it to intimate the remitting of the sentence accordingly.

According to Advocate Ashraf, under ATA 1997, a convict cannot be pardoned, and there is no single precedent available since 1947 in which a terrorism convict has been pardoned by the president.

He added that even though the president could pardon the convict after the approval of the cabinet and the prime minister, in this case such an approval holds no legal value as that goes against ATA 1997.

On the other hand, Sajid Mehmood Abbasi, counsel of Basharat, told the court that the presidential pardon was based on the mercy petition filed by his family. “The ministry of interior has also informed the jail authorities about the remission of the remaining sentence of the convict but the authorities concerned did not release him. I have also filed a separate petition of habeas corpus for the recovery of Basharat in the court,” he added.