Accountability judge Arshad Malik on Sunday rejected Maryam Nawaz's allegations from a day earlier — that the judge had convicted Nawaz Sharif in the Al-Azizia reference under “immense pressure from hidden hands” — saying that the former premier was convicted on the basis of evidence.
On Saturday, PML-N vice president Maryam Nawaz opened a Pandora’s box with a startling claim that the judge of an accountability court confessed he had been “pressurised and blackmailed” to convict her father in the Al-Azizia reference. A video containing the judge’s alleged confession during his conversation with a ‘sympathiser’ of the PML-N, Nasir Butt, was screened during a hurriedly called presser at the party’s provincial headquarters in Model Town.
The judge, in a press release issued on Sunday, said that he had seen the press conference as well as the video attributed to him. "Serious allegations were made against me; it was a conspiracy to affect my credibility as well as that of my institution and my family. Therefore, I want to present the facts.
"I am a resident of Rawalpindi where before becoming a judge, I worked as a lawyer. The individual shown in the video, Nasir Butt, is also from the same city and is an old acquaintance. Nasir Butt and his brother Abdullah Butt have met me many times at numerous instances.
"The video shown in Maryam Safdar sahiba's press conference is not only contrary to the facts but it is also a despicable attempt to mesh together various instances and topics spoken about, and to present them out of context.
"After Maryam Safdar sahiba's press conference, it is necessary that the truth be brought forward [...] during the hearing of the cases against Nawaz Sharif and his family, I was repeatedly offered bribes by their representatives and also given threats of serious consequences if I did not cooperate," alleged the judge in the press release.
"I decided to stay committed to the truth and left my life and wealth in the hands of God.
"Had I announced the verdict under pressure or over greed of bribes, I would not have acquitted him [Nawaz Sharif] in one case and convicted him in the other," said the judge.
Judge Malik, on Dec 4, 2018, had handed the ousted prime minister seven years in jail in the Al-Azizia Steel Mills corruption reference, but on the same day acquitted him in a second reference related to Flagship Investments, saying "there was no case against Nawaz".
Detailed judgement: Nawaz Sharif handed 7 years in Al-Azizia reference
"While dispensing justice, I announced conviction of Nawaz Sharif on the basis of evidence in the Al-Azizia case and acquitted him in the Flagship case.
"I also want to make it clear that indirectly or directly, neither was there any pressure on me nor was there any greed.
"I made these decisions knowing God is omnipresent and on the basis of the law and the facts. This press conference was held merely to make my decisions controversial/disputable and to gain political advantages.
"The videos shown during the press conference are fake and based on lies and assumptions. Therefore, legal action should be taken against those individuals involved in this."
Following the issuance of the press release, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Information and Broadcasting Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan on Sunday said that the government has decided to conduct a forensic audit of the video and audio shared during Maryam's press conference.
She said that yesterday a "political stage" was set for "political point scoring" and it was transformed into a "political theatre".
"In that political theatre, the entire country saw that the faces and body language of the actors that were made to sit on that political stage were revealing that a suicide attack had been conducted on their own party by begum Maryam Safdar," she said, adding that the "so-called chairman" of the party, Shahbaz Sharif, appeared the most helpless.
Firdous questioned Maryam's credibility and said that a few days ago a petition was filed in the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) against her on the basis that a convicted individual could not hold any party position.
She referred to Maryam as a "champion of telling lies".
The government spokesperson claimed that Maryam, through her lawyer, said that her party had not issued any notification regarding her appointment as PML-N vice president.
Firdous added that the whole country has seen that Maryam refers to herself as the vice president and had given the press conference yesterday while seated next to the party president.
"She made it clear that there has been a coup in PML-N."