• Apex court to hear plea seeking probe on 16th
• Law minister says president to decide judge’s fate
• In affidavit, Arshad Malik claims he met Nawaz at Jati Umra after latter’s conviction
ISLAMABAD: After consultation with the Supreme Court amid deepening political and judicial crises, the Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Friday removed accountability court judge Arshad Malik over the video scandal while the apex court fixed a petition seeking a thorough probe into the video for hearing on July 16.
Soon after the development, Law Minister Dr Farogh Nasim accompanied by special assistant to the PM on accountability Mirza Shahzad Akbar told a press conference that the government had stopped the judge from performing judicial duties.
Judge Malik, who had called on acting chief justice of the IHC Aamer Farooq twice this week, earlier submitted a letter to him along with an affidavit claiming that he was blackmailed owing to another ‘damaging’ video that he termed a “manipulated immoral video in a compromising position”, recorded somewhere in Multan.
The judge’s first purported video statement claiming that he had been pressurised and blackmailed into convicting former prime minister Nawaz Sharif came to surface during a press conference addressed by Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz vice president Maryam Nawaz on July 6. The claim was allegedly part of the judge’s conversation with a PML-N sympathiser, Nasir Butt, who the government suspected had a criminal history.
In his affidavit, judge Malik claimed that Nasir Butt and Nasir Janjua used the manipulated immoral video to blackmail him time and again. He also claimed that his two acquaintances Mahar Jilani and Nasir Janjua met him in February 2018 and informed him that his appointment was made on their recommendations.
When Nawaz Sharif’s trial in Al-Azizia and Flagship Investment was transferred to his court, he was approached multiple times by associates and supporters of the PML-N supremo, the judge said.
However, he said in spite of all those attempts, he was determined to decide the reference purely on merit and subsequently convicted Nawaz Sharif in Al-Azizia reference but acquitted him in Flagship Investment reference (on Dec 24, 2018). After their failed attempts, they showed him the immoral Multan video telling him that “it is you doing this when you were serving in Multan”, he said.
According to the judge, due to fear of the “Multan video” he met Nawaz Sharif at Jati Umra on April 6, 2019, Hussain Nawaz in Saudi Arabia on June 1, 2019 and Nasir Butt pressurised him to get his assistance in preparation of grounds for appeals in Al-Azizia and Flagship references.
After perusing the affidavit, the IHC administration in the letter addressed to the law ministry stated: “The recent development i.e. releasing of videos, issuing of press release by the registrar accountability court-II Islamabad and affidavit submitted by the incumbent judge narrating his version (copy enclosed) requires his immediate removal.
“Therefore, he may be removed/relieved from his duties by the competent authority forthwith so that he can be repatriated to his parent department, i.e. Lahore High Court, Lahore.”
The IHC registrar office stated: “This letter may be treated as consultation of the Chief Justice of this court as required under section 5A(4) of the National Accountability Ordinance, 1999.
“An early action in this regard shall be highly appreciated,” the IHC letter concluded.
Shortly after this development, federal Law Minister Dr Farogh Nasim accompanied by special assistant to the prime minister on accountability Mirza Shahzad Akbar told an urgently called press conference that in compliance with the IHC direction Judge Malik had been barred from serving as an accountability court judge.
They expressed the hope that NAB would initiate proceeding against those who used the video to blackmail the accountability court judge.
Dr Nasim told the media that Judge Malik had formally been asked to stop performing further duties as a judge following the ‘video leak’ scandal’ though President Arif Alvi would make final decision about his removal.
Judge Malik was posted as accountability court judge on March 13 last year a couple of months after being transferred to the IHC from Lahore High Court.
The law minister said judge Malik had claimed that he was blackmailed and threatened to play a partisan role in the corruption case against Nawaz Sharif. Referring to the affidavit, he said: “Arshad Malik has claimed that he was being harassed, threatened and acquitting Nawaz Sharif, the refusal of their offers by the judge resulted in his personal videos being leaked.”
He asserted that the judge in his affidavit had declared that the verdict against Nawaz Sharif was delivered “without any pressure or fear”. He said: “The verdict was on merit.” How could one acquit someone in one case and convict in another if there was any pressure with respect to cases, he reasoned.
He explained to the media that the Al-Azizia judgement would not be overturned unless the IHC decided the verdict had been issued under duress.
The announcement came as the PML-N raised calls for the Al-Azizia sentence to be set aside and Nawaz Sharif’s immediate release.
The minister also revealed that if the accusations hurled by the judge were proven to be true after investigation then those being named might have to face a jail sentence up to 10 years for trying to influence a high-level case under Article 31(a) of NAB ordinance.
He said Prime Minister Imran Khan and his government would neither favour anyone nor would disfavour. But, he added, nobody would be allowed to tamper the verdicts.
In another significant development, the Supreme Court fixed a petition seeking a thorough probe into the videos for hearing on July 16.
The early fixation of the petition moved by Ishtiaq Ahmed Mirza through his counsel Chaudhry Munir Sadiq on Thursday is being considered by legal observers as a great development in view of its political-judicial undercurrents.
Mr Mirza, himself a lawyer and a social activist, in his petition moved before the apex court under Article 184(3) of the Constitution pleaded that the apex court should issue necessary orders for securing independence, respect, prestige and integrity of the judiciary.
According to a senior counsel Hasan Mann, the SC has taken up the petition expeditiously because the matter pertains to the institution that the chief justice heads. “However, I believe that the scope of the matter will be kept restricted to this particular incident only and it will not be made basis for across-the-board scrutiny of judiciary — lower or superior,” he said.
Barrister Raheel Kamran Sheikh said the petition was fixed very timely as it was undisputedly of public importance that has been affecting administration of justice and put on trial credibility of the judicial system in Pakistan and undermining the rule of law.
Published in Dawn, July 13th, 2019