LAHORE: Riaz Kayani cut a beleaguered and frustrated figure as he dismissed accusations of corruption during his tenure at the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) in a press conference on Monday. He demanded the Supreme Court take suo motu notice of the accusation, given its gravity.
After retired ECP official Afzal Khan accused Kayani and a host of other judges, including former Supreme Court justices Tassaduq Jillani and Iftikhar Chaudhry, of rigging elections, Kayani moved swiftly to defend himself. “The accusations that I am affiliated with Noon League (PML-N) are a bare-faced lie,” he said.
Kayani’s press conference set up in response to the latest twist in the ongoing political turmoil that has engulfed the country over the past few weeks. The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) had accused the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz government of rigging last year’s parliamentary elections. PTI had claimed it did so with the collusion of the media and courts, including former chief justice Iftikhar Chaudhry.
Afzal Khan bolstered PTI’s accusations by not only affirming Chaudhry’s involvement, but implicating Chaudhry’s successor Tassaduq Jillani and Kayani as well. Even Fakhruddin Ebrahim, the former chief election commissioner who enjoys an impeccable reputation in judicial circles, was not spared. “Fakhru Bhai should have spoken out or at least taken notice on record,” Afzal said.
Kayani’s response was swift and indignant, but did not carry malice. Addressing the media, he lamented that taking a position at the ECP was probably “the biggest mistake of my life”.
“Had I known that I would be maligned like this, that I would be aligned to a party – had I known, I would have never have come,” he said.
He addressed Afzal’s accusations systematically. He said that Afzal’s claim that his salary amounted to Rs1million every month was an “exaggeration”.
He admitted to the accusation that he was receiving a salary and a pension at the same time, saying that it was “perfectly legal”. He referred to an alleged presidential order that allowed for employees that came out of retirement to draw both a salary and a pension. It is unclear which presidential order he was referring to.
Kayani also emphatically dismissed Afzal’s third accusation, that he was responsible for ‘90% of the sabotage to the election commission’. Flumoxed, he asked the reporters present, “Tell me what steps have I taken?” He called Afzal’s accusations “frivolous” unless they were substantiated.
As Kayani moved on from his prepared statement to taking questions from the reporters present, he began to express frustration outside of the allegations. He kept away, however, from attacking anyone ad hominem. Asked why PTI chief Imran Khan would name him, he said, “Somebody is poisoning his ears.”
He demanded the Supreme Court to take suo motu notice of the accusations, given position of the people implicated. “He [Afzal] has involved two retired chief justices and one senior judge of the Supreme Court.”
He also refused to condemn Afzal Khan for his statements in the interview, rather blaming the ‘leading questions’ asked by his interviewer, Mubashir Lucman.
“The anchorperson asked him [Afzal] ‘does this mean he is corrupt, tell me is he corrupt’. He wanted him to say it,” Kayani alleged.
“We call it a ‘leading question’ in law. Afzal Khan was not calling me corrupt.”