Last week, the honourable Chief Justice of Pakistan took a suo moto notice of allegations in the media regarding his son, bringing an end to a whispering campaign that had been going on for some weeks now. Those spreading the stories about his son used the scandalous information to insist that the Chief Justice is not free from the corruption that infests our smelly corridors of power. They also used this ammunition to bring into question his struggle against corruption and abuse of power. By summoning his son, conducting the proceedings in an open court and recusing himself from the bench, the Chief Justice has once again upheld the rule of law and the popular perception about him as an upright man has been further strengthened. He has barred his son from visiting him till he has cleared his name. Those who had conspired against him and the independent judiciary are now using other tactics to weaken him, but they are unlikely to succeed.

For anyone with an iota of common sense, the matter is pretty simple. The Chief Justice has been viewed as a party pooper by the well entrenched power club misruling the country. His insistence on going by the book without fear or favour is an anomaly in the top floor of the power structure where everybody scratches everyone else’s back and nobody is held to account for their crimes and commissions. The pie is neatly divided and everyone gets a piece of it. Nobody wants to rock the lawless boat because they are all in it.

Obviously, for this one happy family of haves, who would like to add endlessly to what they have using their power and influence, someone like the Chief Justice who tries to bring them to the book is a sore sight that they could do without. They’ve tried to get rid of him before and the recent scandal is the latest version of their plan to remove this hindrance in their orgy of loot, plunder and lawlessness.

General Pervez Musharraf tried to sack him when he asserted his independence and refused to follow the general’s illegal orders. When he was restored by the Supreme Court, Musharraf sacked the entire Supreme Court and imposed emergency. The nation, however, was determined to have him back. The Zardari government tried its level best to stop that. And when it was clear that the momentum behind the restoration of judiciary was unstoppable, the minus-one formula was floated. This formula offered the restoration of all the judges sacked by Musharraf, except the Chief Justice. The devious plea taken was that since the Chief Justice has become controversial, he should not head the Supreme Court. This argument did not cut any ice with millions of citizen who, instead of controversy, saw in his person a ray of hope for justice, and Zardari had to swallow his minus-one formula. The scandal now spun around his son is to create some controversy and to snuff out that hope. Once again, it does not cut any ice.

While the proceedings of the case will bring forth the facts about who gave how much money to whom and for what reason, the drift of the scandal is quite obvious. It also tells us something about the source of the whispering campaign. A shady business tycoon with friends in many high places, and a self-proclaimed kingmaker, held meetings with many influential journalists to convince them that the Chief Justice was not above board. For that purpose, he presented documents showing that the Chief Justice’s son, Dr Arsalan, had benefited from his business empire that had sponsored his vacations and shopping in Europe. He also claimed to have given Rs 300 to 400 million to Dr Arsalan as bribe to influence his father, who is hearing numerous cases against the tycoon and his business concerns. From here, the story varies about why he decided to share information with journalists regarding his bribing.

We will find out the truth about the accusations against Dr Arsalan in the coming days, but there is nothing that could connect his doings with the working of his father. The Chief Justice’s record in office is not only beyond reproach, it is exemplary. Under him, the Supreme Court has established its moral authority and the institution is viewed by citizens as a guardian of their rights and a bulwark against the criminal wrongdoings of the powerful. He is a source of inspiration and a guiding spirit for his institution. For safeguarding the interests and rights of citizens, the Chief Justice and other honourable judges have stepped on numerous powerful and wealthy toes. And when it became obvious to these perverse power-players that the Chief Justice could not be corrupted, they trapped his son, or tried to do so, to weaken his moral authority and sully his good reputation. All this is clear as daylight.

Parents are not accountable for every sin committed by their children. Even if Dr Arsalan did something wrong, it cannot be used to target the Chief Justice and create controversy around him. That doesn’t stop some people from trying it though. The scandal is being used, as per the plan, to raise questions about the Chief Justice and to bear him down with the weight of what his son did. Those who were never comfortable with the Chief Justice and have found one reason or the other to criticise him, are now suggesting that justice cannot be done unless he resigns. They do not stop to question why the shady tycoon paid the bribe and are not interested in bringing him to justice. They are not interested in why the tycoon kept the record of his bribing and why he chose to disclose it to individual journalists without handing over the documents.

So, was Malik Riaz alone in hatching this conspiracy against an entire nation’s hope? The government has denied any involvement though the conduct of its Attorney General makes it look otherwise. On the one hand, he says that the court should not give any special treatment to the case and, on the other, he has asked the court, like Malik Riaz’s counsel, to constitute a larger bench. Some PPP wallahs have started asking for the Chief Justice’s resignation due to the scandal. Commentators point out that the tycoon is close to Zardari and has links in the army, thanks to some 11 retired generals on his payroll. While the government’s displeasure with the Chief Justice does not need any explanation, the CJ seems to have stepped on some khaki toes as well in his attempt to bring their working within the ambit of law. It will not be difficult to tell who Malik Riaz’s partners in this conspiracy are. We will know by their conduct in the coming days.

n    The writer is a freelance columnist.