PM Imran reprimands Dr Mirza on failure to satisfy superior judiciary on Covid-19 strategy

PM Imran Khan orders probe into online campaign against SC judges


Hasnaat Malik April 16, 2020

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Wednesday ordered the Federal Investigation Agency director general to launch an inquiry against the people responsible for running a social media campaign against the country’s top judge and other members of the superior judiciary after the apex court raised questions over the government’s Covid-19 strategy and the bloated federal cabinet.

The premier has also reprimanded his special assistant on health, Dr Zafar Mirza, for his inappropriate demeanour and failing to effectively present the government’s case during his briefing to the Supreme Court judges last week.

“The prime minister has taken a very serious view of the recent campaign on social media in which “uncalled, immoderate and intemperate language” has been used against the superior judiciary of Pakistan, including the chief justice of Pakistan,” read a notification issued by the Prime Minister’s Office.

“The FIA director general shall look into this malicious campaign and depute a team of suitable officers to track down the culprits involved,” it added.

The prime minister ordered the investigation after his meeting with Attorney General for Pakistan Khalid Javed Khan.

Sources told The Express Tribune that the top law officer briefed the premier about the dangerous consequences of the ongoing smear campaign on social media against the superior judiciary.

A senior lawyer believes that the PM Imran has timely taken notice of the matter given that that the appointment of 19 advisers and special assistants is already under the radar of the superior judiciary.

A constitutional petition against these appointments will be filed in the apex court on Thursday (today).

The online campaign against judges started after Chief Justice Gulzar Ahmed expressed his dismay over the federal government’s measures to deal with the coronavirus pandemic, particularly raising questions about competence of Dr Mirza.

Referring to the alleged smuggling of surgical masks to other countries, the chief justice said the court was not satisfied with Dr Mirza’s performance.

The top judge said the government should remove the Dr Mirza but the attorney general intervened and requested the bench to show restrain as, according to him, sacking the special assistant at this time would be dangerous.

A senior government official told The Express Tribune that Dr Mirza acted appropriately while briefing the superior judiciary on the government’s Covid-19 strategy last week.

The PM’s aide told the judges they were not following the social distancing policy. He was also unable to respond to the judges’ queries about the health ministry’s steps to control the viral outbreak.

The prime minister had chided Dr Mirza for failing to present a satisfactory response to the judges’ questions about the government’s measures against the pandemic.

Earlier, the prime minister had also urged Railways Minister Sheikh Rashid to satisfy the judges when he was grilled by the superior judiciary over the performance of his department.

The senior lawyer said the prime minister did not want a confrontation with the judiciary.

“Everyone, including Pervez Musharraf, Asif Ali Zardari and Nawaz Sharif, has lost their battle with the judiciary,” he added.

Before the retirement of former CJP Asif Saeed Khosa, an online campaign was run against the superior judiciary after its verdicts in the army chief extension and Musharraf treason cases.

Last year, a social media campaign was started against SC judge Justice Qazi Faez Isa as well.

After the Panamagate case verdict on April 20, 2017, the relationship between the PML-N and the judiciary had become tense as the party’s media cell had started a campaign against the joint investigation team and the apex court.

Senior judges, especially then chief justice Saqib Nisar, were visibly upset over the media campaign.

A three-member bench, headed by Justice (retd) Ejaz Afzal Khan, had pointed out that eight people were targeting the Supreme Court and the investigation team on the media.

Later, Saqib Nisar had disqualified three PML-N lawmakers in a contempt case and a few senators were also ousted.

PML-N leaders were also summoned in different cases and cases against party activists were registered for using slanderous language against Saqib Nisar.

The PML-N leadership complained that they were not given a level playing field in the last election.

It was also witnessed that the PML-N legal team failed to acquire relief from the superior judiciary during the tenure of former CJ Khosa. It was only during the last days of his tenure that the party leadership was granted relief.

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