Pakistan's Supreme Court on Thursday halted a probe by the government's anti-graft watchdog against the chief justice's son, who was accused of receiving over Rs 342 million from a real estate tycoon to influence cases, and ordered formation of a commission to investigate the matter.
A two-judge bench headed by Justice Jawwad Khawaja directed the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to stop its investigation into the allegations against Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry's son Arsalan Iftikhar.
The bench ordered formation of a commission headed by ex-Intelligence Bureau chief Shoaib Suddle to carry out a probe into the allegations that Arsalan was paid over Rs 342 million by a real estate tycoon to influence cases in the apex court.
The court gave its ruling in response to a petition filed by Arsalan Iftikhar, who claimed the NAB was not conducting a free and fair investigation.
The court said Suddle will have the status of a judicial officer and can use the government machinery for his probe.
Suddle will also have the power to call witnesses and take the help of law enforcement agencies.
The bench directed the NAB to hand over all its records of the case to Suddle. The commission was directed to submit a report on the issue in 30 days.
In June, the apex court had directed the Attorney General to decide who would probe the allegations levelled against Arsalan Iftikhar by real estate tycoon Malik Riaz Hussain.
The Attorney General had subsequently asked the NAB to conduct a probe into the matter.
The apex court further directed Suddle to conduct a probe against two police officials - Faisal Memon and Tahir Bashir - who were part of the joint probe team formed by the NAB.
These police officials had wrongly represented facts or hidden their association with the real estate tycoon, and the court ordered their removal from active duty.
After Thursday's hearing, Arsalan Iftikhar told reporters that he was a Pakistani citizen with rights, irrespective of his parentage.
He said he had complained to the apex court about the prejudice of the NAB "with evidence."
He further said he would appear before the new commission to face the charges against him.
However, legal experts and commentators have claimed that the apex court appeared to be lenient while dealing with the chief justice's son.
Even top anchors of TV talk shows, who have usually backed the judiciary in its standoff with the government, have questioned the supreme court's handling of the case against Arsalan Iftikhar.
During the hearing of the case, real estate tycoon Malik Riaz Hussain's counsel Zahid Bukhari had argued that no proof was produced that showed NAB Chairman Fasih Bukhari was biased in the case of Arsalan Iftikhar.
He said the investigation could not be transferred to any other body merely on the basis of allegations.
In a statement submitted to the Supreme Court, the tycoon said his relatives extended favours and made cash payments totalling Rs 342.5 million to the Chief Justice's son.
The tycoon further alleged that he was being blackmailed by the chief justice's son.
The tycoon said his son-in-law made cash payments totalling Rs 327 million to Arsalan Iftikhar.
The cash payments and expenses on hotels and luxury flats during visits to London and Monte Carlo by Arsalan Iftikhar came to a total of Rs 342.5 million, the statement said.