Is govt protecting video tape scandal judge, wonders CJP

Updated August 21, 2019

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A screengrab from a video shared by PML-N leader Maryam Nawaz shows judge Arshad Malik (R) in conversation with PML-N supporter Nasir Butt (L). — DawnNewsTV/File
A screengrab from a video shared by PML-N leader Maryam Nawaz shows judge Arshad Malik (R) in conversation with PML-N supporter Nasir Butt (L). — DawnNewsTV/File

ISLAMABAD: Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Asif Saeed Khosa on Tuesday wondered why the federal government had not repatriated Judge Arshad Malik of the accountability court to the Lahore High Court (LHC) for initiation of disciplinary proceedings against him.

“Is the federal government protecting the judge by keeping his services with them?” the chief justice wondered, adding that the situation was dangerous as a judge became susceptible or vulnerable to blackmailing or being influenced, be it by the government or any individual, when he had a skeleton in the closet.

The Islamabad High Court on July 12 had removed Judge Malik from his post amid a controversy surrounding a leaked video tape showing his purported confession that he had been “pressurised and blackmailed” to convict ex-prime minister Nawaz Sharif in the Al-Azizia corruption reference. The IHC also had directed the registrar office to repatriate the judge to the parent department, LHC.

During the hearing of the case by a three-judge SC bench, the CJP regretted that the conduct of Judge Malik had caused all honest, hard-working and dedicated judges to bow their heads in shame.

The bench had taken up three identical petitions filed by Ishtiaq Ahmed Mirza, Sohail Akhtar and Tariq Asad, who sought a directive from the apex court for the constitution of a probe committee or a judicial commission.

Attorney general assures SC bench that Judge Malik will be repatriated to LHC as per court order

The court, however, reserved its ruling after Attorney General Anwar Mansoor assured the bench that Judge Malik would be repatriated. The bench then observed it would decide the fate of the petitions within two or three days.

The CJP said the retention of the judge by the federal government indicated that he could be blackmailed even by the government since it possessed the Multan video on the basis of which the judge had been reportedly blackmailed. The demeanour of the judge put a question mark on his conduct, he regretted.

Since he was under the protection of the federal government, therefore no action could be taken against the judge who after convicting certain individuals went to meet them at their house and even to Madina, the chief justice observed. This was something disturbing if the judge was planted for the hearing of a certain corruption reference, he remarked.

While criminal investigation against the airing of the video would continue side by side, repatriating the judge was doable and should have been done by the government, the CJP said.

He said that since the purpose of the present case was to activate the process, the government should show some progress as it was their job while the court would consider whether it should monitor the entire investigation process or not.

During the hearing, the CJP also wondered why the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) had failed to conduct forensic examination of the video, which had been screened during a press conference by Maryam Nawaz in Lahore.

The entire country, except the FIA, had copies of the video, observed another member of the SC bench, Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed, whereas the CJP wondered why no party had moved any application before the IHC to place the video as evidence in the appeal pending against the ex-PM’s conviction.

While reading out a report furnished by the FIA on the video scandal, when the AG said Ms Nawaz had distanced herself from the video, Justice Umar Ata Bandial remarked that those who had floated the entire story had disassociated themselves from it.

The AG explained that the video of Judge Malik was made by accused Mian Tariq Mehmood of Multan between the years 2000 and 2003, when the former was posted as additional district and sessions judge in Multan.

The NAB references on Flagship and Hill Metal were transferred to the accountability court in August 2018 some five months after Judge Malik’s appointment as the accountability judge.

According to the FIA report, Shahbaz Sharif had expressed ignorance about the video, claiming that Maryam Nawaz could give any clarifications. Other PML-N leaders Khawaja Mohammad Asif, Ahsan Iqbal and Atta Ullah Tarrar also adopted a similar stance. Significantly, Maryam, who had given a detailed narrative on the audio/video during her press conference, also attempted to disassociate herself from the details and specifics of the acquisition, origins, source, recording, dissemination, release and timing of the said audio/video (played on her instructions at the press conference with subtitles).

The FIA report stated that she also distanced herself from the specifics of the individual who had recorded the audio/video and sought to place the entire responsibility and burden upon accused Nasir Mehmood Butt.

In an affidavit, Judge Malik said that at a social gathering attended by both accused Nasir Janjua and Maher Ghulam Jilani, the former took him aside and implored him to give verdict of acquittal in both the references. The judge also claimed he was again approached by both accused Janjua and Jilani who offered him Euros equivalent to Rs100 million and telling him that the foreign currency worth Rs20 million was readily available in their vehicle outside. But the offer had been made prior to the decision of the references, he added.

The affidavit alleged that accused Nasir Butt met him and threatened him regarding revelation of the video by accused Janjua. Whereas at that time the judge showed his ignorance about such video, accused Butt told him that it would be shown to him soon.

After a couple of days, accused Mian Tariq Mehmood visited the judge’s house and showed him the video.

When Judge Malik was asked if accused Janjua had ever personally showed the video to him, the former replied in the negative. However, the judge maintained the version and accusations in his affidavit and complaint.

Published in Dawn, August 21st, 2019