Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar on Wednesday while hearing a case on the transfer of the Islamabad police chief suggested that minister Azam Swati could be tried under Article 62(1)(f) ─ the same section that led to the disqualification last year of Nawaz Sharif and Jahangir Tareen.
Swati, a member of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), was accused of playing a role in the transfer of former Islamabad Inspector General of Police Jan Mohammad — an allegation over which the SC had pondered taking action against him under Article 62 of the Constitution before forming a JIT.
The former IGP's transfer took place after Swati’s son registered a case against a family of slum dwellers for allegedly trespassing on his family’s land. Five people, including two women, were arrested for trespassing on the land and beating up Swati’s guards. They were released after a day’s detention as police said a settlement had been reached between the minister and the detained family.
Article 62(1)(f), which sets the precondition for a member of parliament to be "sadiq and ameen" (honest and righteous), is the same provision under which former prime minister Nawaz Sharif was disqualified by a five-judge SC bench on July 28, 2017, in the Panama Papers case. Likewise, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) leader Jahangir Tareen was disqualified on Dec 15 last year by a separate bench of the apex court under the same provision.
"We've read the joint investigation team report," the chief justice said in today's hearing, referring to the report submitted in the last hearing of the case which revealed that Swati had 'misused' his office and was given special treatment by authorities due to his position.
Attorney General Anwar Mansoor apprised the court on the matter, saying that it does not fall under National Accountability Bureau laws.
"Then fight the case under Article 62(1)(f)," the chief justice said. "Is Swati ready to make a sacrifice? We don't even want his money for the dam fund," he commented.
"The Supreme Court is authorised to record testimonies under Article 62(1)(f)," the chief justice observed, to which Swati's lawyer, Ali Zafar, pointed out that there was no such precedent.
"We will set a precedent then," the chief justice said.
Zafar told the court that his client had been asked 10 questions by the JIT. The first question was about whether the IGP was transferred under pressure from Swati, Zafar said.
"The JIT ascertained that the matter had been decided beforehand," the lawyer explained.
"The decision to transfer the IGP was taken because he wouldn't take phone calls," the top judge recalled, asking whether the government could be shown what a judicial review is.
The attorney general said that a case had already been registered against Swati, and the probe into the incident had been completed. "A challan will be presented within a couple of days," he added.
"What action has PTI taken against Swati?" Justice Nisar wondered.
The top judge also took the newly appointed Islamabad Inspector General Police Amir Zulfiqar to task, asking him what steps he had taken regarding the matter, and whether this was all he had done in his one month at the post.
The IGP responded that the matter had been pending before the court, which the chief justice dismissed, saying that the capital police chief should have "seen what needed to be done".
Swati's counsel, in his formal response submitted in the court, denied allegations levelled against their client and claimed that he "did not hurt the victim's family".
"Azam Swati would not dream of flouting or violating any laws," the response stated. "He never used his influence or misused his office to cause any wrong treatment to Niaz Muhammad family by the police as alleged by the JIT."
The minister claimed that "upon coming to know that women have been arrested," he "told his son to have the matter compromised ... and to facilitate the bail of the accused".
Swati labelled "JIT's presumption" that he had influenced the police as "premature and baseless", noting that a proper trial to establish facts has yet to take place.
He claimed that the JIT's findings has "many flaws" — one of which is its failure to observe the fact that his employees too were severely injured in the clash and admitted to the hospital.
The PTI minister, however, regretted the incident and "wished that his son Usman Swati had not got the case registered" and sought a settlement instead with the other party.
Furthermore, Swati requested the court to not give any observations in the suo motu case as it could affect his trial.
SC Bar Association president asks SC to pardon Swati
Supreme Court Bar Association President Amanullah, who appeared in court to intercede on Swati's behalf, appealed to the chief justice to pardon the PTI leader, saying that he had worked with the minister at one time.
"This billionaire is taking on those who do not even have enough money for two meals a day," the chief justice remarked, adding that he would become more aware after he is punished.
"His crime is not as big as the punishment the court is going to give him," Amanullah said, adding: "Article 62(1)(f) would be a big punishment."
"Why are you interceding on his behalf?" the judge asked Amanullah.
"He was a colleague of mine," the bar association president responded.
The court appointed former attorney general Khalid Javed and Advocate Faisal Siddiqui as amicus curiae and instructed them to prepare and assist the court in the case. "We want an unbiased opinion in this case," Justice Nisar said.
The case was adjourned until Dec 24.