ISLAMABAD: The law ministry on Friday barred Arshad Malik from serving as an accountability court judge after the Islamabad High Court (IHC) requested his removal over a controversial video unveiled by the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) in which he was purportedly heard saying that he was blackmailed into convicting former prime minister Nawaz Sharif.
Addressing a news conference, Law Minister Farogh Naseem said Malik had been told to report back to the Lahore High Court (LHC).
The law minister clarified that the sentence handed down by the judge in the Al-Azizia reference would not be overturned unless the IHC decided that the verdict was delivered under duress.
“Barring the judge [from serving as an accountability court judge] will not have any impact on his verdicts,” Naseem said. “The government will not tolerate any attempt to intimidate the judiciary,” he added.
On Malik’s claims that he was threatened and offered bribes, the law minister said there would be legal action against anyone who tried to intimidate or blackmail judges.
The minister pointed out that the judge, in his affidavit submitted to the IHC earlier in the day, had reiterated issuing the verdict against Nawaz without any pressure or fear.
Besides, he added, the verdict was not linked to the judge’s statement or video and the case was based on documentary evidence.
“The London flats still exist and there is no money trail,” he added.
Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Accountability Shahzad Akbar, who was accompanying Naseem, said Malik’s appointment to the post would also be investigated.
He added that around 80% of witnesses in the Al-Azizia case had testified before accountability judge Mohammad Bashir but then it was transferred to Malik’s court.
Akbar maintained that Malik in his affidavit had stated that he was blackmailed by the PML-N leadership using a clip of him — described by the judge as “Multan video” — to rule in favour of Nawaz.
“We will ascertain as to who blackmailed the judge and how the videos were secretly recorded.”
Earlier in the day, the IHC approached the law ministry to remove accountability court judge Arshad Malik from his position.
According to official sources, the request was conveyed to the law minister in a letter sent by IHC Registrar Irshad Kiyani on the orders of acting IHC Chief Justice Aamer Farooq.
The development came after Malik met Justice Farooq earlier on Friday, their third meeting this week.
The accountability court judge also submitted a letter to the IHC registrar in which he again rejected the PML-N’s claim that he was coerced into ruling against Nawaz. He described the party’s allegations as “baseless”.
He also maintained that PML-N had also offered him bribes after he had handed down the verdict against the three-time former premier in the Al-Azizia case.
Along with the letter, Malik also submitted an affidavit and a copy of the initial press release he had issued on Sunday.
In a major development, Justice Farooq has told the IHC registrar to make all three documents a part of Nawaz’s pending appeals against the Al-Azizia and Flagship references.
The first meeting between Malik and Justice Farooq took place on Monday, after which the IHC acting chief justice met Chief Justice of Pakistan Asif Saeed Khosa.
Consultation among judges over the video continued on Thursday during the second meeting between Malik and the acting IHC chief justice.
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.
In a press release, issued a day after the PML-N news briefing, judge Malik stated that his comments in the video were pieced together, presented out of context and that he had never faced intimidation to rule against Nawaz.