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Journal of America Team:

 Editor in chief: 
Abdus Sattar Ghazali

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Mertze Dahlin   

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June 7, 2012

Pre-election rigging in Pakistan:
Zardari regime's plan to damage independent judiciary unveiled

By Abdus Sattar Ghazali

In a pre-election rigging attempt, the regime of President Asif Ali Zardari conspired to damage the independent judiciary in Pakistan that may not allow rigging in the forthcoming elections which are due some times later this year or early next year. The conspiracy was revealed by a renowned journalist, Shaheen Sehbai who said that Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry's family was trapped in the conspiracy by giving around Rs400 million ($4 million) by a business tycoon close to President Zardari.

Commenting on Sehbai's revelation, Haroon Rashid, a senior journalist told Dunya TV that he was not surprised by the trap plan because the unpopular and corrupt Zardari regime wants to win the next elections by hook or crook. He said that this is power politics.

The US client Zardari regime has been at odd with the Supreme Court of Pakistan under Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry. It is now history that Zardari was reluctant to restore CJ Chaudhry who was sacked in March 2007 by President General Parwez Musharraf when he refused to bend. However, under intensive public pressure CJ Chaudhry was restored in March 2009 by Zardari regime which came into power under a US-brokered deal with his assassinated spouse, Benazir Bhutto, to share power with General Parwez Musharraf. Under the controversial deal all corruption cases, including money laundering cases in Switzerland, against Benazir and Zardari were withdrawn. Pakistan Supreme Court, in 2009, declared null and void this amnesty given through the controversial National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO). Zardari regime is now fighting with the Supreme Court not to open money laundering cases against Zardari.

Shaheen Sehbai's interview

Not surprisingly, the Zardari regime decided to damage the image of CJ Chaudhry and a meticulous plan was hatched to bribe his son Arsalan Chaudhry,  according to Shaheen Sehbai, Group Editor The News International. Chief Justice scam to trap story was disclosed  by Shaheen Sehbai  a 38 minute interview by the Washington Beat on YouTube on June 4, 2012.

Sehbai said “CJ’s son was given up to Rs400 million (Approximately $4 million)in a planned conspiracy. The conspiracy is Shaheen now completed and can be brought to surface anytime.”

According to Shaheen Sehbai CJ’s son received millions of rupees plus sponsored foreign trips with credit cards to be used abroad for him and his family from a famous business tycoon of Pakistan. “There are quite a few people in Pakistan whose earnings are in billions of rupees and who can easily invest in such conspiracy plans. The person who I am referring to has relationships with military and politicians likewise. Nowadays he is very close to government,” he added

Sehbai further said “I received this info from a very credible source. The person, who gave money to CJ’s son, had accepted it. They have documented everything. CJ’s son has also accepted receiving money in his private gatherings. He is ready to go to jail if it requires.”

However, Sehbai said that the details of the business for which this huge money was lended to CJ’s son is still unknown. “Few years back Musharaf (Former president of Pakistan) put charges on Iftikhar Ch that he misused his authority to provide his son a job. So how can a job seeker become such a brilliant businessman in just few years that people gave him millions? Therefore, it was a planned conspiracy,” Sehbai added.

He also said that CJ Iftikhar Muhammad Ch is very angry on this matter. “CJ said to his close friends that he will sidelined his family,” Shaheen continued.

The famous news group’s editor also said that prominent journalists including Najam Sethi, Kamran Khan and Hamid Mir were aware of the whole matter. He also said that ruling party Senator Aitzaz Ahsan, Information Minister Qamar-uz-Zaman Kaira and other Pakistan Peoples Party’s top leadership were also aware of this conspiracy but just could not ‘find courage to bring it up.’

Pakistan CJ Iftikhar Chaudhry begins proceedings against his son

On Jun 6, 2012, Chief Justice Pakistan Iftikhar Chaudhry took a suo moto notice against his own son Arsalan Iftikhar and Bahria Town’s Malik Riaz Hussain, following allegations leveled against them.

Before the start of the case hearing, Arsalan Iftikhar told reporters that he was innocent and that he had been told not to return home until a judgment was reached. His father, Iftikhar Chaudhry, heading the three-member bench said that if allegations against his son were proved true, he would be punished in accordance with the law.

During the hearing, Attorney General Irfan Qadir raised objection to the inclusion of Chaudhry on the bench hearing the case. The CJ responded by saying that the case was not of political nature and that he would not step down from the bench hearing the case.

Kamran Khan, a political analyst at the Geo TV channel, told the court  on June 7, 2012 that Malik Riaz had shown him dossiers pertaining to Arsalan Iftikhar’s summer vacation trips to London over the past three years. The documents, he said, showed his stays were funded by Malik Riaz and a family member in London. Ali Ahmed Riaz and Malik Riaz were summoned for next hearing, which has been set for June 11.

On  June 7, 2012 the chief justice of Pakistan, Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, disassociated himself from the bench hearing the case regarding the allegations against his son.

Pakistan Supreme Court convicts PM for contempt

The Supreme Court of Pakistan created a major political storm in the country in April last when it adjudged Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani guilty of contempt of court, raising the possibility of his disqualification as a member of parliament and the head of government.  The Prime Minister was given a token sentence, till the rising of the court - which was all over in less than a minute.

'After our satisfaction that the contempt committed by him is substantially detrimental to the administration of justice and tends to bring this court and the judiciary of this country into ridicule… Gilani… is found guilty of and convicted for contempt of court… for wilful flouting, disregard and disobedience of this court's direction… He is, therefore, punished… with imprisonment till the rising of the court,' a short order issued by a seven-member bench of the Supreme Court said.

Gilani was summoned before the Pakistan Supreme Court on January 19, 2012 for failing to take steps to re-open money-laundering proceedings against President Asif Ali Zardari.

He was indicted for contempt of court on February 13. The civilian-judicial confrontation stems from thousands of cases thrown out in 2007 under an amnesty ordered by former military president Pervez Musharraf, which paved the way for a return to civilian rule Zardari was the decree's most prominent beneficiary.

In 2009 the Supreme Court declared the law - National Reconciliation Ordinance - as null and void. The court also ordered the government to ask Swiss authorities to restart legal action against Zardari. The cases date back to the 1990s, when Zardari had multiple cases of corruption lodged against him, including accusations of money laundering using Swiss accounts.

It may be recalled that in August 2003, a Swiss Court found former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto and her widower, Asif Zardari, guilty of money laundering. Investigation Judge Daniel Devaud sentenced them to a six-month suspended jail term, fined them $50,000 each and ordered they pay more than $2m to the Pakistani Government along with a diamond necklace. The case was related to an illegal six per cent of commission or bribe worth $12 million for awarding a pre-shipment customs inspection contract to two Swiss firms Societe Generale de Surveillance and Cotecna. The judge said they had illegally deposited millions of dollars in accounts in Switzerland and ordered the money be returned to Pakistan. The Supreme Court wants the 60 million dollars in this account returned to the country. 

Pakistan court orders 'memogate' inquiry

The government is separately embroiled in a dispute with the military over an unsigned memo sent in the wake of the U.S. commando raid that killed al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in a Pakistani town last year. The memo, which an American businessman said was drafted on the direction of former ambassador to Washington Husain Haqqani, asked for U.S. help in reining in the army, which the memo said was planning a coup. The army was furious over the memo. Haqqani was forced to resign, and "memogate" has locked Zardari and the military in trench warfare ever since. In December 2011, the Supreme Court established an inquiry into a controversial unsigned memo.

Supreme Court suspends Senate membership of Interior Minister

On June 4, 2012 a three-member bench at the Supreme Court of Pakistan headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry has suspended Rehman Malik’s membership of the Senate for holding the British citizenship which he had concealed while contesting the Senate election.

Although Pakistan’s constitution permits most citizens to hold dual nationality, lawmakers cannot. At a hearing on Monday, Justice Chaudhry ordered Mr. Malik and 13 other lawmakers to verify their nationalities by June 13.

Most of the 14 lawmakers are accused of having or rumored to have additional American, British or Canadian nationalities. On May 25, the court suspended Farahnaz Ispahani, the wife of a former ambassador to the United States, Husain Haqqani, from the lower house of Parliament. Ms. Ispahani who holds American citizenship.

A day after the Supreme Court suspended Rehman Malik’s Senate membership, the government on June 5 appointed him adviser to the prime minister on interior with the status of federal minister.

The court orders have stirred an emotional public debate about the dual-nationality issue, with the Pakistan Peoples Party describing the court petitions as a part of a “witch hunt.” The nationalities — and, by implication, loyalty — of several senior leaders, including the finance minister and deputy chairman of the Senate, have been called into question. Some politicians say the constitution should be amended to allow for dual-nationality lawmakers.

Obviously, there looks an open confrontation between the corrupt and unpopular government of Zardari and the Supreme Court which give credence to reports about the unsigned memo to General Mullen and the latest conspiracy against the Chief Justice Chaudhry.

Abdus Sattar Ghazali is the Chief Editor of the Journal of America