ISLAMABAD: Justice Qazi Faez Isa has told the Supreme Court that the presidential reference against him – filed for not disclosing the properties of his family members in his wealth statement – was part of a “witch-hunt” aimed at “silencing judges”.
“The petitioner’s [Justice Isa] conduct does not show any lack of bona fides nor does he want to protract the process of accountability,” he stated in a rejoinder to the assertions made by the attorney general for Pakistan.
“If the ‘process’ means a false complaint and reference, it is nothing but a witch-hunt aimed at silencing judges,” he added.
Justice Isa further maintained that the government was attempting to destroy the independence of the judiciary.
“The objective of the government’s team is patently obvious, that is, to ensure the subservience of judges, failing which judges and their families will be subjected to surveillance, information about them will be illegally gathered, they will be defamed, victimised and exposed to danger,” he added.
“By creating such an environment through deception, guile and dominance, the government’s team is attempting to destroy the independence of the judiciary.”
Justice Isa also said the material relied upon by the federation against him and his family had been obtained through covert surveillance and/or through unauthorised and unlawful sharing of confidential data by state agencies and the Federal Board of Revenue, the Federal Investigation Agency and the National Database and Registration Authority.
“A false and invidious media campaign is then run to destroy the reputation of a judge of a Supreme Court and his family. Would the exoneration of the petitioner wash away all the lies and propaganda unleashed against him? And all this has been done because the powers that be did not approve of what the petitioner wrote as a judge. The objective is to browbeat the judiciary and destroy its independence,” the rejoinder read.
“The government’s team wanted the petitioner to violate his oath of office, to be fearful and to conduct his work in violation of the constitution and the law. If the petitioner had complied, he would have breached his oath and committed misconduct. However, the great irony is that in upholding his oath of office and not committing misconduct it is alleged that the petitioner has committed misconduct.”
Justice Isa also raised questions about the individual who shared the initial information about his family’s properties with the government.
He said not a single fact about Abdul Waheed Dogar, who according to the presidential reference provided information about the foreign properties of judges, had been disclosed by the federation.
“Every effort has been made to conceal all information about Mr Dogar because if the truth about him emerges, it will embarrass the highest functionaries of the state, who want to convert this great country into a police-state where such nefarious characters are required to put forward lies and are to be used for ulterior and nefarious agendas,” he maintained.
“The powers that control the strings of the puppet Mr Dogar are so very powerful that he is the unaccountable blue-eyed boy whilst a judge of the Supreme Court is of no consequence. Significantly, the Supreme Judicial Council never called Mr Dogar to appear before it nor questioned him yet the petitioner was called upon to submit his response and then his reply to the show-cause notice was founded on Mr Dogar’s allegation.”
Justice Isa said the unusual degree of protection accorded to Dogar and the concealment of all his affairs led to only one conclusion that his puppet masters were the most powerful in the land and could be questioned or held accountable.
“This Hon’ble Court may, if it so pleases, summon Mr Dogar to ascertain his dubious and cloaked existence, his employers, his travels abroad, his income tax status and on whose directions he had knowingly filed false stories,” the rejoinder read.
“While every single aspect of the petitioner and his family’s life has been probed, Mr Dogar has been given, in sharp contrast, extraordinary protection and immunity. Why? The government team is rendering the Islamic Republic of Pakistan into a police state, resorting to third-degree methods, using disreputable proxies and protecting them.”
Justice Isa further informed the court that he was not under obligation to provide the money trail for his family’s properties.
“The petitioner cannot be compelled, or even asked, to provide information about properties that are independently owned by his wife and children,” he added.
“The petitioner’s wife and adult children are not his dependents and conduct their own affairs. The petitioner does not have information about all their financial affairs just like they don’t have knowledge about all of the petitioner’s financial affairs.”
Justice Isa said he was under no obligation to declare the income or assets or the money trail of his independent wife and children. “Indeed, there is not even an allegation of benami ownership in the reference. The law of Pakistan does not conflate the identities of different family members merely on account of their kinship.”
Justice Isa also denied that the properties owned by his wife and children were “expensive”.
“The federation has deliberately been repeating this in order to insidiously impugn the petitioner’s integrity and undermine his public reputation. It is the federation’s own case that the first of the properties was purchased in 2004 for GBP 236,000 (approximately Rupees 2 crores 60 lacs at the time) while the second and third were purchased in 2013 for GBP 245,000 and GBP 270,000 when the pound in value had appreciated somewhat against the rupee but was nowhere close to its present value,” the rejoinder read.
“While ‘expensive’ is, of course, a relative term it may be pointed out that the cumulative value of all three properties is less than the value of a 1 kanal (500 square yards) residential house in the better areas of Karachi, Lahore or Islamabad. Incidentally, the petitioner’s house in Phase 2 of DHA, Karachi is situated on 800 square yards and subsequently the petitioner bought another 800 square yards lying adjacent thereto which makes it a total of 1,600 square yards. The petitioner’s house in Karachi lies vacant for the last ten years as he was called to serve first as the chief justice of the Balochistan High Court and then as a judge of the Supreme Court living respectively in Quetta and Islamabad. The petitioner never received any rent nor at any stage declared his Karachi house as his official residence, and consequently, all outgoings in respect thereof are paid by him. The petitioner also did not accept valuable land in Islamabad offered at well-below market price to the petitioner by the government.”
Justice Isa maintained that a complete disclosure had been made of his properties in Pakistan and which were several times the combined value of the properties in London falsely attributed to him. “If the petitioner had income and savings to buy far more expensive properties in Pakistan than those in London there was no legal impediment in his way not to buy properties abroad. The petitioner, however, has not bought till date a property in London or any other place abroad. It is denied that the reference has required the SJC to inquire as to whether the London properties are in fact owned by the petitioner. The reference does not even allege this.”
Justice Isa also denied that his wife held two identities. “Spelling, pronunciation and naming conventions are different in Spanish as compared to English and that is the only reason for the difference in her Spanish documents as compared to her Pakistani documents,” he added.
“The reference does not make any allegation in this regard and the same is entirely irrelevant to the matters at hand. The federation’s contentions in this regard only betray a keenness to sling mud at the petitioner and his family even at the flimsiest pretext. Since the petitioner had exposed the falsity of the reference, a resort was then made to target the petitioner’s wife and children.”
Justice Isa also denied that he was under any obligation to have knowledge of, let alone obligation to disclose, the source of income used by his independent wife and adult independent children to purchase properties.
“It is further denied that the petitioner’s daughter and son had no source of income of their own when the two properties were purchased jointly with their mother in 2013. In June 2013 and April 2013 the petitioner’s daughter and son were married and working. The petitioner’s daughter worked at a law firm in the United Kingdom and her husband was also a working barrister. The petitioner’s son was employed at an estate agency and he also carried out editing jobs as an independent contractor. His wife was an analyst at a private equity firm. None of this is denied by the federation yet it claims the petitioner’s children had no independent source of income. What was propagated by the Nazi Joseph Goebbels that – repeat a lie often enough and it becomes the truth – is the same tactic employed against the petitioner.”
The judge said it was clear that the information forming the basis of the reference had already been gathered through covert surveillance by various government agencies and a proxy complainant was subsequently set up and a sham investigative exercise carried out by the Asset Recovery Unit to legitimise it.
“Moreover, neither the Assets Recovery Unit nor its chairman had any constitutional authority to receive a complaint of misconduct against a judge of the superior courts.”
Justice Isa also noted that if he and his wife’s filings could be publicly displayed, then the government had no immunity to keep the prime minister’s income tax returns and wealth statements hidden.