The Islamabad High Court on Tuesday decided to indict former chief justice of Gilgit-Baltistan Rana M Shamim on December 13 over his inability to produce the original affidavit wherein allegations were levelled against ex-CJP Saqib Nisar about him manipulating judicial proceedings to deny bails to the top PML-N leadership before general elections 2018.
A single-judge bench, led by IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah, also declined the request of Shamim's counsel to allow his client to travel to the UK for obtaining original affidavit.
During the hearing of the case, Shamim’s counsel informed the court that the content of the affidavit was in fact authentic.
He added that the affidavit was not supposed to be published.
In his affidavit, Shamim had alleged that Nisar had influenced the case against ex-prime minister Nawaz Sharif by allegedly ordering a judge to keep the former premier and his daughter Maryam Nawaz in jail till general elections in July 2018. Justice (retd) Nisar has denied these allegations.
Justice Minallah expressed displeasure over Shamim’s refusal to submit the original document, the content of which was reported in a national daily.
"The public was given the perception that the chief justice pressured judges of this court. The timing of the story's publication is important because [the hearing] on an appeal is under way," Justice Minallah noted, referring to Maryam’s appeal against her conviction in the Avenfield reference.
The IHC CJ asked Shamim's counsel, Lateef Afridi, to view the case as amici curiae and not as his client’s lawyer.
Afridi said his client had not rejected the affidavit but again maintained that the former judge had not given it to the media. "The content of the affidavit is accurate but it was not given for publication," he added.
The lawyer informed the court that the original affidavit was with Shamim's grandson, who was in hiding in the UK because he was being harassed.
In a written response submitted to the IHC in connection with the contempt proceedings against him, Rana Shamim said: "The affidavit referred in the show-cause notice has neither been circulated to the press by the answering respondent nor it has been shared with anyone, with the intent that same may be made public."
He added that had there been any intention of ridiculing the judiciary, the affidavit would have been tendered in Pakistan and released to various media outlets.
According to Shamim, he had the affidavit notarised in London because he had no “intention of making it public during his lifetime”.
“[I] handed it over to my grandson [in London] with a clear instruction that neither he would open it nor share the same with anyone.”
He maintained that the “only compelling force” behind executing this statement in form of an affidavit was “a promise with his late wife before her death” that he must have this fact reduced in writing and preserve it to set the record straight.
According to the former judge, he had no idea how investigative journalist Ansar Abbasi obtained the affidavit and published it in the newspaper.
He contended that the court could not proceed against him as his conversation with the ex-CJP took place in an area outside the territory of Pakistan.
“Whatever has been stated in the affidavit is based on the conversation that was heard by the answering respondent while he was present Gilgit-Baltistan and unless and until the same proven to be false no mala fide could be attributed especially when the same statement has not been released…by the answering respondent.”
Shamim added he was ready to “state the facts” on solemn oath and confront former CJP Nisar, adding that the event mentioned in his affidavit occurred on July 15, 2018.
He further stated that he could not even comprehend to cause aspersions on the integrity of the judicial process, adding that he expressed his regret if he caused any annoyance to the court.
After the hearing, Shamim, along with his lawyer Afridi, talked to the media outside the high court.
Afridi said his client was being intimidated in Pakistan whereas his grandson was being harassed in London. He said the former judge agreed with the content of his affidavit published in the newspaper.
He also criticised the attorney general for Pakistan for presenting a one-sided narrative.
“The attorney general says that the allegations [levelled by Shamim] are of grave nature, but is there such a matter that is not serious in Pakistan?” he quipped.
“Does the attorney general have the courage to say that whatever happening here is wrong?” he questioned.
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