Minister for Law Dr Farogh Nasim, addressing a press conference following judge Arshad Malik's removal by the Islamabad High Court on Friday, said that no one would be allowed sentence can be overturned unless the high court finds the verdict was issued under duress by the accountability judge.
"The law ministry has stopped Arshad sahab from working [as a judge] for now," he said adding that judge Malik has been directed to report to Lahore High Court, his parent department.
The press conference came a while before the Supreme Court of Pakistan admitted a petition, requesting a thorough probe of the leaked videos, for hearing. A three-member bench, headed by Chief Justice Asif Saeed Khosa, will hear the appeal on July 16.
In the affidavit, the judge has said that he issued the verdict without any pressure or intimidation," said Nasim, referring to the affidavit submitted by Malik to the IHC acting Chief Justice Aamer Farooq.
Read the affidavit here: 'Hussain Nawaz offered me Rs500 million bribe to resign after Al-Azizia verdict'
Judge Malik, on Dec 4, 2018, had handed ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif seven years in jail in the Al-Azizia Steel Mills corruption reference. Maryam Nawaz, the daughter of the former premier, has alleged that the judge was “pressurised and blackmailed” to convict her father in the Al-Azizia reference and has released videos which she says back her claims.
Final decision with IHC
"If we go by this affidavit, then it is clear that he [the judge] has issued the verdict without any pressure," said Nasim at Friday's press conference.
Judge Malik, in the affidavit, has alleged that he was offered a Rs500 million cash bribe by Nawaz's son, Hussain, "who demanded that the judge resign on the grounds that he could no longer deal with the guilt of having convicted Nawaz under duress" in the Al-Azizia reference.
Referring to those allegations, the law minister said: "According to National Accountability Ordinance Section 31 [prohibition to hamper investigation] and this country's law, if anyone tries to manipulate or bribe a judge, there is a separate punishment for that [...] 10 year-sentence for intimidating judiciary."
"The National Accountability Bureau cannot do anything regarding the sentence [in Al Azizia]; the IHC has to decide," clarified Nasim. "The sentence cannot immediately be suspended, cannot be extended or changed in any way until IHC takes a decision regarding whether the judgement was issued under pressure."
He further said that the verdict of the case in which Nawaz was convicted was not dependent on the judge Malik's statement or video.
"The judge's revelations do not eliminate the London flats, neither do they provide a money trail," Naseem said.
"This entire case is [based on] documentary evidence. What are the justification and reconciliation of the assets [in question]? It's a simple thing: if you provide a money trail today, you will be released immediately."
"The law ministry and government stand by the judiciary; we will not victimise anyone or take sides but will not tolerate manipulation of judiciary," he said, recalling that the Al Azizia case was not opened under the PTI government.
Investigation based on affidavit
Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Accountability Shahzad Akbar, who was also present at the press conference, said that it will now have to be investigated how the appointment of judge Malik took place.
"It has been said [in the affidavit] that the judge's appointment was made with an ulterior motive. The judge in his affidavit says he did not even know he had been appointed," said Akbar. "It is also important to note how the case was transferred to Arshad [...] 70 to 80 per cent of the witnesses' statements had been recorded in accountability judge Mohammad Bashir's court but they [PML-N] expressed lack of confidence by design and the case was transferred."
Akbar revealed that at the time, there were only two accountability court judges.
"The affidavit names Nawaz Sharif, who was out on bail at the time, saying he met the judge in Raiwind," said Akbar. "The judge was given a script with a threat that if he did not say what was written, a video will be leaked and he would be defamed."
Akbar was referring to a video which the judge in his affidavit called the "Multan video". The judge has alleged that the "secretly recorded, manipulated and immoral" video was used by the PML-N to blackmail him.
"On another occasion, Nasir Butt [the PML-N 'sympathiser' seen in the video in which the judge allegedly confessed to being under pressure], threatened him," said Akbar, quoting the affidavit.
"The names in the affidavit have become important [...] as we will have to determine who blackmailed whom. Investigation should also be held to determine how the videos, that have been [revealed], were filmed. It should also be investigated if the judicial process is still being tampered with," he said. Akbar also said the videos may also be sent to the Federal Investigation Agency's cyber crime cell for examination.
Following the IHC's announcement on Friday regarding the removal of judge Malik, Maryam Nawaz, Shehbaz Sharif and other party leaders called for the verdict against Nawaz Sharif in Al Azizia reference to be expunged.
Additional reporting by Haseeb Bhatti