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Asset unit’s report led to cases against judges: ministry

Updated June 01, 2019

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PBC convenes meeting on June 12 to discuss issue; Pemra stops TV channels from airing discussions, analysis on matter. — Photo courtesy SC website
PBC convenes meeting on June 12 to discuss issue; Pemra stops TV channels from airing discussions, analysis on matter. — Photo courtesy SC website

ISLAMABAD: The law ministry has finally expla­ined that the reference against two superior court judges originated in a complaint by Prime Minister’s Special Assistant on Accou­ntability Shahzad Akbar’s Asset Recovery Unit (ARU) while the Pakistan Bar Council (PBC) has convened a countrywide meeting on the explosive issue.

“The (law) ministry on its own has no mechanism to look into the assets of any judge and therefore is bound to process complaints it receives from the ARU and the Federal Board of Revenue in the best interest of the country,” a spokesman for the ministry said. He said the ministry believed in upholding the rule of law and would continue to do so.

In October last year, Mr Akbar had announced setting up of the ARU comprising officials of the National Accountability Bureau and the Federal Investigation Agency with the task of probing thousands of properties held by Pakistanis abroad.

PBC convenes meeting on June 12 to discuss issue; Pemra stops TV channels from airing discussions, analysis on matter

He had also stated that the details of over 10,000 properties owned by Pakistanis in the United Arab Emirates and the United Kingdom had been received.

On the other hand, PBC vice chairman Syed Amjad Shah told Dawn that a general house meeting of Pak­istan’s regulatory body of lawyers had been called on June 12 to take stock of the situation arising out of the filing of the references against the superior court judges.

Before the June 12 meeting, a joint meeting of the representatives of national and provincial/Islamabad bar councils would be held on June 8 and 9 for prior consultation on the matters pertaining to Article 209 and 175-A of the Constitution.

Asked about general feeling among the lawyers on the filing of the references, Mr Shah said they were angry since they believed that Justice Qazi Faez Isa of the Supreme Court was being discriminated against and victimised with mala fide intent.

Likewise, Supreme Court Bar Association president Amanullah Kanrani told reporters that to show solidarity with Justice Isa, lawyers would congregate at the Supreme Court building when the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) took up the reference on June 14.

Meanwhile, the spokesperson for the law ministry denied that federal Law Minister Barrister Dr Mohammad Farogh Naseem was the mastermind and the initiator of the reference against the senior judge of the Supreme Court.

Describing the impression as malicious news, the spokesman also contradic­ted that the ministry had changed the language of the reference on the instructions of President Dr Arif Alvi as the language of the original reference was harsh.

In a related development, the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Autho­rity (Pemra) has restrained television channels from airing news, discussion or analysis on the issue except the news on the reference filed by the government against the judges for allegedly owning properties abroad.

Citing the July 7, 2018 judgement of the Supreme Court, Pemra recalled that through the judgement directives were issued to media that no media discussion, articles or editorials would be written or published and no public comments would be made on the proceedings of the Supreme Judicial Council and only the proceedings would be reported.

Moreover, the Supreme Court through Sept 12, 2018 suo motu case had also prohibited discussions on sub judice matters.

According to Pemra, this judgement necessitated that all the license holders comply with the Electronic Media (Programme and Advertisement Code of Conduct) 2015 in letter and spirit and obligated the authority to take punitive action as per the law without extending any relaxation.

The verdict had explained that any discussion on a matter which was sub judice could be aired but only to the extent that it was to provide objective information to the public and no content including commentary, opinions or suggestions about the potential fate of such subjudice matter which tended to prejudice the determination by a court or tribunal etc would be aired.

Pemra warned that in case of non-compliance, the authority would proceed in accordance with the Pemra Ordinance 2002.

Published in Dawn, June 1st, 2019