PML-N leader Maryam Nawaz on Saturday came out with explosive claims regarding the trial that led to her father, former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, being convicted and sentenced to prison, saying the entire judicial process was severely compromised.
At a press conference in Lahore alongside the top leadership of the PML-N, Maryam played a secretly recorded video that she claimed featured a conversation between Nasir Butt, a man she described as a loyal fan of her father, and Accountability Judge Arshad Malik, who had in December last year sentenced Nawaz to seven years in jail in the Al-Azizia Steel Mills corruption reference and acquitted him in the Flagship Investment case. The presser comes exactly a year after Nawaz and Maryam were handed prison terms in the Avenfield reference.
Maryam alleged that the judge had contacted Nasir and told him that he was feeling "guilt" and "having nightmares" after announcing the "unjust" verdict against Nawaz, so he invited Nasir for a meeting at his residence, where the video was recorded.
In the video, which she termed as "divine help" for her family, Maryam claimed that Judge Malik had pointed out the flaws in Nawaz's corruption trial that he wanted to be conveyed to Nawaz's lawyers. The judge acknowledged that he had been "blackmailed" and "pressured" into issuing a judgement against the PML-N supremo, Maryam claimed.
The veracity of the contents of the video or any of the claims made by Maryam have not been independently verified by Dawn.com.
She claimed that Judge Malik told Nasir that he had been taken to an unspecified place by some people — whom Maryam did not name — who left him alone in a room and played for him a "personal" video of his on a TV screen nearby. Maryam refused to disclose what was in the alleged video, but claimed this video of an "immoral" nature was used to "blackmail" the judge into issuing an adverse judgement against Nawaz.
She quoted the judge as saying that he even contemplated "suicide" because of the pressure he was under. He was also surprised to learn how "they" had managed to get a hold of a 10 years old video, she added.
Maryam claimed that the judge could be heard saying in the video that Nawaz was convicted even though "there is no allegation of financial corruption" in the case. "There is no evidence that any money was taken from any department," she quoted Judge Malik as saying.
No NAB officer visited Saudi Arabia to determine the Sharif family's sources of income and hence it could not be termed a case of holding assets beyond known means of income, she quoted the judge as saying.
"No evidence that a single penny has been shifted from Pakistan, no evidence of shifting any money by accused from Pakistan."
According to Maryam, the judge noted that Nawaz was convicted and handed prison sentence in the Al-Azizia and Avenfield references but acquitted in the Flagship Investment reference. "All three cases came out of one process [and] one pipeline but treated differently," she quoted him as saying.
Maryam said she understood she faces "a lot of danger" after disclosing the contents of the video, but stressed that she was "fighting the case for every prime minister who was subjected to oppression".
Prior to Maryam's address, PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif told the press conference he hoped the Supreme Court and "powerful institutions" will ensure justice for Nawaz following the disclosure of their "evidence".
That same evening, Hussain Nawaz Sharif, the older of the two sons of the incarcerated former premier, responding to a Twitter post by journalist Babar Sattar. said that the family shall "fully cooperate if there is forensic examination of these materials".
He said that there are "several witnesses" to the claim and that they have "much more" information.
'Forensic audit of the tape to be conducted'
Moments after Maryam's press conference was over, the government's chief spokesperson, Firdous Ashiq Awan held her own to condemn the allegations made against Judge Malik, saying, "You [Maryam] have not accused one judge but the entire judiciary."
Awan said that to record someone without their consent is itself a crime.
The special assistant to the prime minister on information said that a thorough forensic audit of the tape will be conducted.
"The judge's conversation and the contents' credibility will be evaluated. Are they real or tampered? Credible? True or false? It will only be determined after the audit," she said, before adding: "We will hide nothing from the people."
Awan alleged that Maryam simply sought to gather people's sympathy and was using this tape to try to "save the ship that is PML-N from sinking".
She went on to say that the people must be made aware of the character based on whom she has brought forward such allegations.
"Nasir Butt, whom she has declared is the source [...] people should know this person's credibility."
"This Nasir Butt was a famous murderer, absconder, the leader of a gang of thugs and an important member of a drug ring who after committing five murders runs away to London and for 20 years remained an absconder and worked as a bodyguard for Zille Subhani."
She said that when they came into power, "they (PML-N) had all cases against him removed, brought the absconder back to the country and used him to do such despicable acts."
"When a person's credibility is such, when his character and his recognition is linked to the mafia, the people of Pakistan can analyse and assess themselves such a person's role in recording a tape and presenting it to the princess to gain media mileage and to create a new conspiracy to turn people astray."
She said the flip side of the whole saga must also be considered.
"This same Nasir Butt perhaps took your customary briefcase to the judge to buy out his conscience. And when he did not conform to your wishes, then [you created] this baseless propaganda in an attempt to stain an honourable institution. We condemn this.
"And if you have any genuine, authentic, realistic, justified proofs, the courts stand free [to review them]. Instead of conducting a media trial, take the proof to the court. Let the court decide.
"Your case and the sentence has not finished. That same court has given you relief on which you are levelling allegations."