Making sure justice is blind

The recent revelations by a prosecution witness that the son of property tycoon Malik Riaz had transferred 245 kanals of land worth around Rs 53.28 crores in the name of Farhat Shahzadi, also known as Farha Khan, have caused quite the stir

The witness, a patwari of the Bani Gala area, claimed that the land had been transferred from Bahria Town through Ali Riaz Malik in favour of Ms Shahzadi, who is purported to be a close personal friend of Bushra Bibi, the wife of former prime minister Imran Khan.

The proceedings of the case in an Islamabad accountability court are being closely followed. The only problem is that one worries for the sanctity of the judicial process in this case. This is, after all, one of the most interesting high-profile trials in Pakistan’s judicial history. The case centres around a £190 million fine that Malik Riaz had to pay to the UK’s National Crime Agency, which was supposed to be repatriated to the Pakistan government.

However, accusations have been rife that the then prime minister, Imran Khan, took kickbacks including the donation of land for his Al-Qadir Trust, in exchange for having the money returned to Malik Riaz and Bahria Town in a round-about manner. It was perhaps the most obvious and pressing legal challenge that Mr Khan could have faced. However, the timing of the case and the manner of his arrest in the reference left a lot to be desired.

Remember, this is the case in which Mr Khan was arrested on the 8th of May 2023 after which certain elements caused the unfortunate and inexcusable events of the 9th of May. Mr Khan was whisked away from outside the Islamabad High Court by a sea of Rangers before being locked up. The timing and manner of the arrest have allowed Mr Khan’s part and supporters to cry foul and complain that the case has less to do with legal merit and more to do with political victimisation.

One fears for this particular case becoming tainted. Not only does it involve a former prime minister, but it also involves the country’s most powerful real estate tycoon and also ties back to another case related to Bahria Town Karachi. The money that was returned by the NCA is supposed to have been used to pay a Rs 460 billion fine Bahria Town owed for its Bahria Town Karachi project to the Supreme Court. If Bahria Town is unable to pay the fine, it may be heading towards default. So this particular case decides a lot in addition to the fate of Imran Khan.

Already there is a sense of heavy politicisation surrounding the case. Some degree of this is expected in all court cases involving politicians but the bad blood surrounding this one is particularly pungent. That is why it is more important than ever the case be heard impartially, with complete due process, and without an iota of doubt as to the intentions behind it.

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The Editorial Department of Pakistan Today can be contacted at: [email protected].


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