A new video has raised serious questions over the independence of judiciary in the country and added to the political turbulence in the process. The video, screened by PML-N vice-president Maryam Nawaz during a presser in Lahore on Saturday, purportedly shows accountability court judge Arshad Malik allegedly confessing that he was ‘blackmailed’ into convicting former premier Nawaz Sharif in one of the three corruption cases filed against him last year in the wake of the 2017 Panamagate verdict by the Supreme Court. The judge has, however, denied the allegation through a statement issued the very next day terming the video ‘false’, ‘fabricated’ and ‘made by twisting his conversations [with a supposed PML-N sympathiser named Nasir Butt] on different occasions’.
The video — whose authenticity is still to be established — has altered the whole course of political debate in the country all of a sudden. From the budget and the IMF agreement and their impact on the common man, the focus of television discussions and drawing room debates is now the new leaks. Many political commentators are even calling it a turning point in the political course of the country. Maryam Nawaz expects political jackpot from the video discovery and some kind of reprieve for his incarcerated father. In fact, she has already started claiming that Nawaz Sharif stands exonerated after the judge’s ‘confession’. The PPP too — whose top leadership has been facing corruption cases, including those being officiated by the same judge — appears to be breathing normally now.
Even though it’s the PML-N versus the courts, the PTI government finds itself caught in the eye of the storm. It’s blowing hot and cold about investigating the issue — first announcing a forensic audit of the video clip in question and then opting to stay away from the whole issue, arguing that courts are the best forum for such investigations. While Prime Minister Imran Khan calls upon the judiciary to take notice of the issue, one of his spokespersons wants a judicial commission for the probe. The legal fraternity and the media also demand proper investigation into the whole affair.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 9th, 2019.