Judging the judge

The video is out, the affidavit is out and the judge is out


Fahd Husain July 14, 2019

Would it be judgemental to judge a judge and his judgement even if the act of judging is done judiciously?

In the case of Judge Arshad Malik, we may not have the luxury of choice. The video is out, the affidavit is out and the judge is out. Perhaps the truth shall soon be out too.

The villainous villainy of vile characters in the viral video has made voyeurs of us all. What you vow for and vie for can come back and bite you where it hurts the most.

Plenty hurting going on in this neck of the woods, to be sure. But the judging game is far from over. In fact, it is going into higher gear with the Islamabad High Court and the Supreme Court both taking up the matter of the judge, his video, and his affidavit. Before the courts gun into life, let’s dissect this fresh political cadaver and conduct an analytical autopsy.

Here’s what the PML-N believes as per the video:

Judge Arshad Malik of the Accountability Court, who convicted Mian Nawaz Sharif in December 2018, did so under duress. Maryam Nawaz argues that the video of Judge Arshad with PML-N worker Nasir Butt clearly shows the judge admitting that he was blackmailed during the trial and was forced to pass a judgement against Nawaz Sharif despite the fact that there was no proof against him. The PML-N maintains the judge was compromised before the verdict and therefore handed down the verdict under the burden of blackmail. Who blackmailed the judge? No one is willing to say on record. What is clear is that the instrument of blackmail was a video featuring the judge that the judge was shown and subsequently threatened with. The video was allegedly shot in Multan some years back and is now known simply as the “Multan video”.

Here’s what Judge Arshad Malik says as per the affidavit:

He was approached during the trial of Mian Nawaz Sharif by some friends who were close to the Sharif family. These friends tried to bribe him to give a favourable verdict and later threatened him too. In the months following the verdict in which he convicted Nawaz Sharif, the judge was shown a video (presumably the “Multan video”) after which he was blackmailed to do something favourable for Nawaz Sharif. The judge admits that he went to Jati Umra and met Nawaz Sharif personally and later during a visit to Saudi Arabia also met Hussain Nawaz Sharif who offered him Rs50 million in return for which he should resign saying he could not deal with the guilt of convicting Nawaz Sharif under duress and without evidence. The judge says he rejected all offers.

So what is common between these two versions?

One, the judge was indeed blackmailed (by one or another party).

Two, the “Multan video” exists and is the instrument of blackmail.

Three, the judge violated every rule in his book by meeting people who he should not have met before or after the verdict.

Four, the judge did not report any of this to his superior judges (from what we know so far).

Five, the judge made his allegations in the affidavit only after Maryam Nawaz had released his video.

What we can conclude so far is this:

The judge is compromised one way or another, by one party or another. It may then be safe to infer that since the judge is compromised, so is his judgement. The final say of course rests with the Islamabad High Court which is scheduled to hear Nawaz Sharif’s appeal against the verdict in September.

What we cannot conclude so far is this:

The veracity and genuineness of the video released by Maryam Nawaz.

The veracity and genuineness of the allegations in the affidavit submitted by Judge Arshad Malik

Let’s take the scalpel to these two:

The video shown at the press conference by Maryam Nawaz was an edited version with video and audio mixed in post-production (or that is what was said). This was done to make the conversation audible. The full video is also available now on social media. However the PML-N has not submitted the original video formally at any forum. The Supreme Court will start hearing the petition on this matter on July 16 and there is a likelihood that it may order Maryam Nawaz to present the original video for a forensic verification. This would establish if the video is genuine or a product of edited manipulation as Judge Arshad claims.

The affidavit submitted by Judge Arshad contains specific allegations against specific people on specific times at specific places. Since the Islamabad High Court has attached this affidavit with Nawaz Sharif’s appeal to be heard in September, it is likely that the court will ask Judge Arshad to substantiate his allegations. He could, for example, prove through call records or text messages that those he has accused of blackmailing him were in touch with him. But would he be able to prove that he visited Jati Umra and actually met Nawaz Sharif? Would he be able to provide evidence that he met Hussain Nawaz in Saudi Arabia? And even if somehow he can prove all this, would it be possible for him to produce witnesses who can corroborate the bribe offers and blackmail threats. It’s a big ask.

Which is why the Supreme Court could, if it so decides, order a proper investigation into these allegations conducted by FIA or a JIT so that facts can be sifted from fiction. The stakes in this scandal are too high for it to be brushed under the carpet. Or perhaps, it is because the stakes are so high that it may in fact be brushed under the carpet. No one knows who’s playing the game and who’s being played in this system of ours.

So would it be judgemental to judge a judge and his judgement even if the act of judging is done judiciously? The answer may come looking for us sooner than we expect.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 14th, 2019.

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