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ISLAMABAD/LAHORE: Denying the allegation of being blackmailed into convicting former prime minister Nawaz Sharif in Al-Azizia reference, judge Arshad Malik on Sunday termed the video fabricated and false and said it was made by twisting his conversations on different occasions.

Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) vice president Maryam Nawaz, who had screened the judge’s purported video during her explosive presser in Lahore on Saturday, however, alleged that the judge might have issued his latest statement, too, under pressure.

The video containing the judge’s “confession” during his conversation with a PML-N “sympathiser”, which was telecast by various TV channels when it was screened by the opposition party during the presser in Lahore, also drew attention of the Pakistan Electronic Media Regu­latory Authority (Pemra) that issued show-cause notices to 21 channels.

Maryam believes judge ‘had to sign pre-typed press release under compulsion’; Pemra sends notices to TV channels for airing unedited presser

In an official press release, Judge Malik, who is at the centre of the video scandal, also demanded legal action against those behind the move. He admitted that he had a long acquaintance with Nasir Butt, a close aide to former premier Nawaz Sharif, as both hailed from the same city of Rawalpindi.

He said he was serving as judge of the Islamabad accountability court and saw the press conference of Maryam Nawaz in which she tried to malign his and his family’s repute by levelling severe allegations, therefore, he wanted to bring facts to the fore. He said he belonged to Rawalpindi where he worked as a lawyer and the person showed in the video tape, Nasir But, was also a resident of Rawalpindi and he [the judge] has long association with him. “The video tape showed in Maryam’s press conference was not only contrary to the facts but an attempt to hatch a conspiracy to present conversations made on different occasions by twisting them out of context,” he said.

“During hearings of the case representatives of Nawaz Sharif met me and tried to bribe me several times. They also threatened me for dire consequences if I do not cooperate,” he said, adding that he rejected the temptation and threats.

In the press release, he further claimed that if he had decided the Nawaz Sharif case under pressure, he would not have acquitted him in one case and declared him guilty in the other. “On the basis of justice and evidences, I convicted Nawaz Sharif in Al Azizia case and acquitted him in the Flagship case,” he added.

“I also want to clarify that neither there was any direct or indirect pressure on me nor I came under any temptation. I decided the cases knowing God is omnipresent and on the basis of the law and evidences,” Judge Malik said, adding that the press conference of PML-N leadership was held merely to make his decisions controversial and to gain political mileage.

He said the videos showed during the press conference were fake and based on lies and assumptions. “Therefore, legal action should be taken against those individuals involved in this,” he added.

Maryam’s tweet

Following his statement, PML-N vice president Maryam Nawaz thanked Judge Malik for what she said “validating the video by not denying it”.

Using her social media account, she tweeted: “The giver of a verdict authored under coercion and blackmailing Judge Sahib! I can understand that even today you had had to sign under compulsion a pre-typed press release. Thank you very much. By not denying the video you validated it. The rest [of the comment will be made] in the evening at Mandi Bahauddin [public meeting].”

Pemra sends notices

Earlier, the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) has issued notices to 21 TV channels for the “unedited live telecast” of the opposition party leader’s press conference in Lahore.

In a post shared on Twitter in the early hours of Sunday, the media watchdog said the unedited live telecast of Maryam’s speech “against [the] judiciary and state institutions” was in violation of Pemra’s laws and code of conduct.

According to the show-cause notices issued to TV channels, the airing of such content was in violation of the Constitution, the orders of the Supreme Court as well as Pemra laws and the Electronic Media (Programmes and Advertisements) Code of Conduct, 2015.

Pemra directed the TV channels to refrain from airing any part of the press conference as it would be considered a “deliberate attempt to violate” the directives as well as orders of the judiciary.

The notice stated that in a suo motu case order dated September 12, 2018, the apex court had “expressed serious concerns on unprofessional and biased programmes/content on sensitive matters and had ordered Pemra to ensure compliance of [the] code of conduct”.

The TV channels were asked to respond to the notice within seven days and explain why appropriate legal action should not be taken against them for the violation. According to the notice, if the channels did not comply, proceedings could be initiated against them under Section 29, 30 and 33 of the Pemra ordinance, 2002 and an application for initiating contempt proceedings will also be filed with the Supreme Court.

Published in Dawn, July 8th, 2019