LAHORE - As the controversy over the allegations levelled against the Supreme Court chief justice’s son Arsalan Iftikhar by real estate magnate Malik Riaz deepens, politicians from leading political entities have come out in the open with their views on the issue, with some seemingly backing the billionaire while others denying his claims made in a now “not so exclusive” interview run by a private TV channel on Wednesday.
Leading the pack was Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q) President Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, who said his family had for long had close ties with Malik Riaz, who had “countless social and humanitarian services to his credit”.
The PML-Q president apparently warned the people, and those ruling them, that Malik Riaz knew many secrets regarding the “rise and fall” of governments and their disclosure was liable to expose many so-called credible personalities.
Shujaat said there were several people in the country who were richer than Malik Riaz, but they were not inclined to spend on others. But considering the recent hullabaloo over payments and receipts, Shujaat’s statement on “spending” is better taken with a pinch of salt.
“Malik Riaz offered billions of rupees for relief and rehabilitation of the 2005 earthquake and 2010 floods victims, his benevolence helped countless deserving individuals and charitable organisations and his Bahria Dastarkhwan initiative feeds innumerable hungry and poor people across the country each day,” the PML-Q chief said.
He also mentioned Malik Riaz’s gesture of paying Rs 130 million as ransom for the release of Pakistanis captured by Somali pirates.
Commenting on Riaz’s business acumen and credibility, Shujaat said he was personally aware of the overwhelming public interest in Malik Riaz’s projects.
On the other hand, Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif denied receiving Rs 850 million from Malik Riaz for the Ashiyana Housing Project.
He told reporters that the contract was given to a company which offered the lowest bid for the project. “It’s a complete lie...the Punjab government has not taken a single penny from him [Riaz],” he said.
Opposition leader in the National Assembly Nisar Ali Khan also lambasted Malik Riaz, accusing the PPP government of using him against the judiciary.
Nisar, who is publicly known as Riaz’s nemesis, said the realtor was President Zardari’s tout and could not even breathe without the consent of “the man living in the Presidency”.
Chipping in with his take, Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah said journalist bodies should take appropriate action against anchorpersons Mubashir Lucman, Meher Bokhari and Malik Riaz, after a leaked video had shown them taking “instructions” during commercial breaks of Malik Riaz’s interview. Rana did not mince his words when he said Mian Amir Mehmood, the owner of Dunya News, was “Malik Riaz of the future”.
Ironically, he said, those who used to expose politicians in their talk shows had now been exposed themselves.
The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf of Imran Khan also rubbished the claims by Malik Riaz and issued a list of question of its own for the business tycoon to answer. The party said it was time that Malik Riaz also answered some questions after putting up numerous questions to the chief justice.