Former prime minister and PML-N senior leader Shahid Khaqan Abbasi on Friday condemned the references against two superior court judges and demanded that they be withdrawn.
While addressing a joint opposition press conference outside the National Assembly, Abbasi said that the country's supreme judiciary was being attacked and a "targeted killing" [of the judiciary] was taking place.
These concerns were also voiced in the two houses of parliament — National Assembly and Senate — with a resolution condemning the references being approved by the upper house.
A day earlier, the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) finally removed doubt about filing of references against Justice Qazi Faez Isa of the Supreme Court and Justice K.K. Agha of the Sindh High Court when it issued a notice to the federal government through Attorney General Anwar Mansoor for June 14.
Informed sources said the references, filed after approval by President Dr Alvi, alleged that Justice Isa had allegedly acquired three properties in London on lease in the name of his wife and children between 2011 and 2015, but these were not disclosed in wealth returns.
Likewise, Justice K.K. Agha was accused of purchasing two properties in London, but not disclosing them in wealth returns.
During today's presser, Abbasi said that the opposition had tried to pass a resolution during the assembly session. The government, however, had "purposely" avoided doing so, he alleged.
He added that a resolution had been passed in the Senate session.
The resolution approved by the Senate stated: "While supporting across the board accountability, the Senate feels that these targeted references are malafied and politically motivated. They are a direct attack on the independence of the Judiciary and are aimed at stifling the voices of reason, truth and justice in the highest judiciary."
The PML-N leader said that it had come to the point where references were being filed against superior court judges, and the judge of the Supreme Court had to inquire about the said references by writing to the president.
On Wednesday, Justice Qazi Faez Isa had written a letter to President Alvi and said he would be obliged if the latter could let him know whether this was correct that a reference had been filed against him under Article 209 of the Constitution in the SJC.
Ababsi alleged that the government had filed the references so that "judges are unable to give independent orders, are unable to give decisions against the government" and so that judges and the judiciary are repressed.
"Today, the bar councils, lawyers representatives and the country's people are all united against this step of this government," he said.
Abbasi added that his party has always respected the court.
"The previous chief justice became part of a campaign against us but because of respect for the court, we didn't speak about references against anyone," Abbasi said.
"Today references are made in the darkness of the night," he said, adding that no one has any knowledge about the references and what the due process for these was.
"The only one purpose of these things is to repress the judiciary, [so that] judiciary gives favourable verdicts and [so that] judges with independence and integrity be defamed."
Abbasi said that information was being leaked about the judges on the media, including details of properties in newspapers. He asked who had shared these details and for what purpose.
"This is a conspiracy against the judiciary. InshAllah we will make it unsuccessful," he said, adding that the opposition was standing with the legal fraternity of Pakistan.
Addressing the joint press conference, PPP Chairperson Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari said that no one had been informed about the references filed against the judges, including the country's representatives in the parliament and the judges against whom the references were filed.
"They file these references in secret," Bilawal said, adding that this showed their [the government's] intentions.
"These are the remnants of Musharraf [era]. They are adopting the approach of [former president retired General Pervez] Musharraf."
"They are trying to make a selected judiciary," he said, adding that the approach used by Interior Minister retired Brig Ijaz Ahmad Shah against the opposition and judiciary during the Musharraf era was being adopted in the 'naya' Pakistan.
He said that his party and the entire opposition condemn this.
Following the references, Additional Attorney General Zahid F. Ebrahim, a son of former chief election commissioner Fakhruddin G. Ebrahim, had resigned from the office, stating that in his opinion the attempt (to file references) was not about accountability of the judges but a reckless attempt to tarnish the reputation of independent individuals and browbeat the judiciary.
The five-member SJC headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Asif Saeed Khosa, if it decides to proceed against a judge, can issue a show-cause notice along with the supporting material calling upon him to explain his conduct within 14 days. On receipt of the reply from the judge, the council can convene its meeting to proceed further with the matter.
If the council at its meeting on conclusion of the proceedings forms an opinion that the judge concerned has been found guilty of misconduct or incapacitated in the performance of his duty properly, it can express its views accordingly and the same will be communicated by its chairman to the president as a report of the council for action under Article 209(6) of the Constitution.