'Why should IHC probe audiotape if parties ‘not interested'

Justice Minallah seeks more grounds for maintainability of plea for forming commission to investigate into affair


Our Correspondent December 08, 2021
IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah. PHOTO: FILE

ISLAMABAD:

Islamabad High Court Chief Justice Athar Minallah on Wednesday questioned as to why the IHC should order an inquiry into the alleged audio leak of former CJP Saqib Nisar when the individuals who were affected by it had not approached the court themselves.

He also sought more arguments till December 24 for the maintainability of a petition seeking the formation of a commission to probe into the audio leak and other allegations against judges.

The petition was jointly filed by Sindh High Court Bar Association President Salahuddin Ahmed and Judicial Commission of Pakistan Sindh member Haider Imam Rizvi seeking the formation of a body to investigate into the authenticity of an alleged audio of Nisar, wherein the former top judge could be heard giving instructions to sentence former premier Nawaz Sharif.

At the start of the hearing, Justice Minallah asked Attorney General for Pakistan (AGP) Khalid Jawed Khan as to who the court should issue orders to launch an inquiry.

The AGP replied that the petition had been filed under Article 199-C of the Constitution.

He added that apparently the petitioners had filed a “proxy petition”.

“A perception should not be given that the petitioners are arguing someone else's case. Sometimes people don’t even know when they are being used.”

The AGP further said it was “the season of harassing and pressuring judges”. “Sometimes an audio, sometimes some concocted affidavit is released.”

He was referring to an affidavit by former Gilgit-Baltistan chief justice Rana Shamim in which he accused ex-CJP Saqib Nisar of trying to manipulate judicial proceedings against former premier Nawaz Sharif and his daughter Maryam Nawaz to deny bails to them before the 2018 general elections.

Khalid pointed out that the petitioner had also mentioned in his plea that in 2017, the then-chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) had allegedly received a call from a US number to include the name of Bilal Rasool in the joint investigation team formed by the Supreme Court to look into the assets of the Sharif family.

The AGP noted that there was a prime minister, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, who was hanged on the court's orders. “Benazir Bhutto's government was not restored but another one’s was. Briefcases full of cash were also given in the past.”

Khalid said if the petitioners wanted to conduct inquiries into past events, they should amend their petition. "Why should we go only till 2017? Let's go back to Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.”

To this, the SHCBA president said the AGP was trying to distract the court from the matter at hand by saying either there should be accountability for the past 70 years or there should be none at all.

He questioned the logic behind linking the current plea to the accountability of the past 70 years.

He said that the formation of a commission to probe the audio clip was necessary to restore confidence in the judiciary.

The petitioner further said the judges were being discredited through such leaks, adding that the court must investigate this to put an end to the controversy surrounding the judiciary.

The IHC CJ asked the petitioner if he had acquired the audiotape from reliable sources. He cited the example of his own pictures being circulated on social media with a PML-N leader.

He remarked that in the current age of technology, it was very easy to make someone’s audio or a video clip. “Anyone can come to the court with an audio clip demanding an investigation.”

The IHC CJ wondered how the probe into the audiotape would affect the relevant appeals being heard by the court.

The petitioner said the court could also take up the plea for a probe into the audiotape as it was already hearing a case about the leaked affidavit.

The IHC CJ said the person who signed this affidavit had come to the court.

“Those whose cases are linked ...  if they don’t have interest in coming to the court then why should the court take up this issue. Is there anyone to take ownership of the audiotape?” Justice Minallah replied.

The AGP asked the SHCBA president to amend his petition to include incidents in the past as well. He vowed that he would take the matter to parliament himself.

The court adjourned the hearing till December 24.

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