ISLAMABAD: Consultation among judges over the alleged video of accountability court Judge Arshad Malik continued on Thursday with a second meeting taking place between Malik and Acting Islamabad High Court Chief Justice Amir Farooq. However, no outcome has come to the surface.
Judge Malik is the central character of the secretly shot video in which he appears to confess before a Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz supporter Nasir Butt that he was threatened to convict former prime minister Nawaz Sharif in the Al-Azizia reference case.
Earlier, the first meeting was held on Monday. Then the acting IHC CJ met Chief Justice of Pakistan Asif Saeed Khosa on Tuesday. Interestingly, no statement has been issued after all these meetings. The pro-judiciary lawyers questioned as to why the judiciary should take notice as the aggrieved person could himself approach the IHC for relief.
Law Minister Dr Farogh Naseem while talking to the media on Thursday threw the ball in judiciary’s court, saying that the high court could look into the matter under the law.
Interestingly, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf led government has no interest in the matter. No one is coming on media to defend the judiciary’s role despite the fact that the PTI is the biggest beneficiary of the judicial proceedings in the Panamagate case.
However, there were unconfirmed reports that show-cause notice had been issued to Judge Malik over his meetings with Butt. Sources in the government claimed that the decision in this matter would be taken today (Friday). There were also chances that Judge Malik could be transferred from his post. Even he may himself opt to relinquish his post.
One section of lawyers is wondering as to why the Supreme Court was not taking suo motu notice as the whole trial in the Panamagate case was monitored by an apex court judge. A larger bench led by incumbent CJP Khosa initiated proceedings in the Panamagate case.
Later, the matter was referred to accountability court judge for trial of the Sharif family. More than 10 judges were in touch with the Panamagate proceedings since November 2016.
Legal experts say that if the high court directed for a retrial, fresh evidences would not be recorded in the Al-Azizia case. Only arguments would be given by both sides and later a judgement would be announced.
On the other hand, the PML-N was trying to increase pressure on judiciary through media. A senior government official believed that the PML-N had “a history of manipulating the judges since 1990”.
The relationship between the PML-N and the judiciary remained cordial till April 20, 2017 verdict in the Panamagate case. Even the PML-N, including the Sharif family, got much benefit from courts in the past. However, the relationship became tense due to the PML-N’s media policy.
Petition moves for probe:
Meanwhile, the Supreme Court on Thursday was moved to launch an inquiry into the video that emerged during a PML-N news conference on July 6.
A constitutional petition, submitted by Ishtiaq Ahmed Mirza through his lawyer Chaudhry Munir Sadiq at the top court, named the federal government, PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif, PML-N Vice-President Maryam Safdar, senior PML-N leader Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, Nasir Butt and Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) as respondents.
It requested the court to initiate a contempt of court proceedings against all the entities involved in the scandal.
It said that details of the July 6 press conference by Shehbaz and Maryam should be sought from Pemra and a probe should be held to clarify all the accusations levelled against the judiciary.
“Although judge Malik has denied being blackmailed into convicting Nawaz for graft last year, the mention of a bribe offer in his press release is of serious importance.”
The constitutional petition said, “Maryam’s allegations against the judiciary fall into the category of contempt of court.”
It pleaded the top court to order the PTI-led government to take measures for the sovereignty of the judiciary.