ISLAMABAD: A prosecution witness on Friday conceded before a Supreme Court bench hearing a contempt of court case against Privatisation Minister Daniyal Aziz that he had “inferred” from the minister’s press conference that corruption references against former prime minister Nawaz Sharif were prepared on the directives of court’s monitoring judge Justice Ijaz-ul-Ahsan.

Sajid Chaudhry, a senior correspondent of Urdu newspaper Roznama Dunya, said he could not seek further explanation of Mr Aziz’s statement because it came towards the end of the press conference.

He, however, stated that no clarification had ever been issued by the minister on his news report. He was being cross-examined by the minister’s senior counsel, Ali Raza.

In his statement, Mr Chaudhry owned the contents of his report that appeared in the newspaper on Sept 9, 2017, but admitted that he was covering the economy beat for the last 22 years and avoided covering political events.

He joined Roznama Dunya three years ago before which he was working for Daily Times, an English newspaper.

Mr Chaudhry was being cross-examined before the three-judge bench headed by Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed that had taken up the contempt of court proceedings on a suo motu over the minister’s alleged derogatory and contemptuous speeches and statements against the apex court which were also telecast by different television channels.

The contempt proceedings were initiated under the Contempt of the Court Ordinance 2003, read with Article 204 of the Constitution.

On March 13, Mr Aziz was indicted for allegedly committing contempt of court by addressing a press conference on Sept 8, during which he said that Justice Ahsan had summoned officials of the National Accountability Bureau to Lahore for preparing corruption references against Nawaz Sharif, his family members and former finance minister Ishaq Dar.

Justice Ahsan was appointed monitoring judge by the Supreme Court in its July 28, 2017 judgement to oversee the proceedings before the accountability court seized with the corruption references.

On Dec 15 last year, the minister alleged that the court’s verdict in Hanif Abbasi’s petition, which sought disqualification of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf chairman Imran Khan, was “scripted and meant only to protect both Mr Khan and PTI by disqualifying the party’s secretary general Jahangir Khan Tareen”.

Similarly, on Dec 21, Mr Aziz said Justice Ahsan should tell the nation who had informed him about the company called Capital FZE.

On Friday, two prosecution witnesses were cross-examined in the court and Additional Attorney General Muhammad Waqar Rana appeared as the prosecutor.

The second witness was Haji Adam, director-general of the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra). He also was cross-examined by Mr Aziz’s counsel.

Mr Adam said the minister had given a statement regarding Justice Ahsan, but the regulatory authority did not issue any notice to Dawn News for airing the statement on Dec 19, 2017.

The witness said he was not aware who had provided the video clip of Mr Aziz to Dawn News as the clip showed a mobile grab of the press conference.

Later, the defence counsel sought time to submit a list of defence witnesses to be produced before the court on April 16.

Published in Dawn, March 31st, 2018