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Why has PML-N leadership not rushed to court with their 'undeniable evidence'?: Aitzaz Ahsan

Updated July 10, 2019

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PPP Senator and lawyer Aitzaz Ahsan. —AFP/File
PPP Senator and lawyer Aitzaz Ahsan. —AFP/File

Senator Aitzaz Ahsan, a former president of the Supreme Court Bar Association and senior advocate of the Supreme Court, on Tuesday wondered why the PML-N has not rushed to the court in light of the "important evidence" it has obtained, which supposedly exonerates incarcerated former prime minister and PML-N "supreme leader" Nawaz Sharif.

His remarks came during DawnNewsTV talk show 'News Wise'.

Ahsan noted that although accountability court judge Arshad Malik has not denied the meeting having taken place, he [Malik] has alleged that there has been "cutting and pasting" in the tape's contents and has termed it "manufactured".

Ahsan said that the matter has therefore turned controversial and that the burden of proof [of demonstrating the veracity of her allegation] lies with Maryam Nawaz.

Ahsan expressed the view that in the press conference held by the party to bring the tape to the fore, Khawaja Haris, Sharif's lead counsel, should have been sitting alongside the other members and should have declared that the party shall be submitting the tape to the court the very next day, along with a request to have it forensically examined and to expediently release Sharif from jail custody.

"The court cannot do it [release Nawaz] immediately. They will first have to ascertain if the tape is genuine and untampered.

"For that, the person who recorded the audio will have to appear before the court and provide a testimony under oath. Similarly, the person who recorded the video will have to appear and also give a testimony under oath. A third person who cannot be identified, and whose arms and legs alone can be seen in the video, will have to appear as well.

"Besides this, Nasir Butt [the person seen talking to the judge in question] will have to appear. The expert from the studio where the film was transferred off of the camera and where it was streamed, will have to appear," said Ahsan, as he explained what will follow if the PML-N takes such a course of action.

Ahsan said that photographic evidence, since the past 150 years, has been submitted in court, but has no admissibility unless and until the photographer or the videographer provides a testimony before the court and verifies under oath that the photograph or video was, in fact, taken by him.

"And unless and until the person who developed it, does not come and testify that he has developed it as is [it holds no value]," he added.

"You provide an unbroken chain of evidence and then prove something like this," he continued, before adding: "So they will have to prove it this way. And the original tape is undoubtedly with Maryam."

Suo motu notice

Commenting on whether the court should take a suo motu notice on the matter, Ahsan said that whether or not the court initiates further action, the decision is one which was handed by the court and can only be revised by a court of higher authority.

"One thing is very clear. Without a court order, Nawaz Sharif cannot get out of jail. The court has sent him to jail. It may be a wrong decision, a corrupt decision and one given under pressure. I am ready to believe this for a minute. But, a judicial decision has been made. And to render it void, a judicial decision in turn will have to be given — by a bigger court," he said.

"Two courts exist which are higher than Arshad Malik's court and which have the authority — the Islamabad High Court and the Supreme Court," he went on to say.

"Supreme Court's Chief Justice Khosa tries his best to have a steady hand in affairs and is not in favour of taking suo motu notices," Ahsan, who is also a senior lawyer, pointed out, suggesting that the Islamabad High Court might have to take up the matter.

'PML-N should rush to the courts'

He, however, also pointed out that the urgency should come from the PML-N's side to see Sharif freed as soon as possible.

"They should say, 'We have genuine evidence. We have that smoking gun with which the murder was committed.'"

"They should rush it to the courts and insist that the matter be pursued immediately. Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and Ahsan Iqbal should delay this no further. And neither should Shehbaz Sharif, if he wishes to see his brother and 'quaid' released. He should, in fact, go [to court] himself."

"Why should he wait for a suo motu?" Ahsan remarked.

When asked what reason could there be behind the party's inaction to approach the court, the PPP leader said: "Then it [releasing the tape] is just a political thing. The matter pertains to the court. Then,it is just the courts getting maligned. The judicial process, the legal process, and their image have all been severely tarnished."

He said that rather than the courts "attempting to clear their name", as proposed by the anchor, the PML-N should be impatient to do something.

"They have such an important piece of evidence in the case against Nawaz Sharif — if it is untampered. It is so important that they should be running to the court [with it] and pleading: 'For God's sake, release Nawaz Sharif today.'"

"And the court may very well, the next day, call in witnesses: Nasir Butt, person behind the camera, the one who did the editing, the streaming, etc," he surmised.