ISLAMABAD: As the Islamabad High Court (IHC) initiated contempt proceedings against federal minister for aviation Ghulam Sarwar Khan, special assistant to the prime minister on information Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan distanced herself from the minister’s alleged contempt and requested the court not to club her pending contempt case with Mr Khan’s.

IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah, while hearing the petition seeking contempt of court proceedings against Mr Khan for describing the bail of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif as a result of some deal, declared that “keeping in view the nature of allegations made in this petition, it is treated as having been filed under Contempt of Court Ordinance, 2003”.

The court also directed the aviation minister “to appear in person and explain why a show-cause notice may not be issued for criminal contempt”.

Justice Minallah observed: “The allegations against respondent No 1 [Ghulam Sarwar Khan] are of serious nature because they raise concerns regarding medical reports of the Medical Board on the basis of which interim orders have been passed by this court.”

Minister Sarwar also faces contempt of court case for insinuating Nawaz Sharif has been granted bail as part of deal

Counsel for the petitioner Barrister Jahangir Khan Jadoon told the court that Mr Khan, prima facie, passed contemptuous remarks as he tried to create doubts on the authenticity of medical reports that declared the condition of Mr Sharif as critical and serious.

Referring to the interview aired on a private television channel, Mr Jadoon said that the federal minister had given the impression that medical reports submitted by the Medical Board constituted by the Punjab government, which also included medical specialists from institutions controlled by the federal government, were manipulated.

The court noted that “a responsible member of the federal cabinet is thus allegedly suggesting that the court was misled by false and manipulated medical reports of the officially appointed medical board”.

Justice Minallah observed that contempt proceedings were pending against the special assistant to the prime minister relating to her statement in which she alleged that taking up the case of ailing former PM Sharif in the evening was a “special dispensation”.

The IHC CJ expressed displeasure over these incidents and remarked that “such statements by responsible members of the federal cabinet, prima facie, were tantamount to prejudicing proceedings pending before this court besides undermining public confidence in institutions including the judiciary”.

“It is alarming because when members of the federal cabinet give the impression of a purported deal then either it is intended to prejudice pending judicial proceedings or indict the government itself. This indeed has consequences in the context of public confidence in the administration of justice,” the court observed.

Ms Awan who was also present in the courtroom on the court’s call approached the rostrum and said that she never heard such contemptuous statement of the minister. She, however, assured the court to bring this matter to the knowledge of Prime Minister Imran Khan.

She tried to distance herself from the case of aviation minister and said that she had nothing to do with the case of Mr Khan and also requested to separate her case from the minister’s case.

The court, however, asked her to appear again on Nov 14 along with the aviation minister in the contempt of court case.

The court also directed her to get the transcript from the private television channel in which Mr Khan had allegedly passed contemptuous remarks and also directed the Pakistan Electronic Media Regula­tory Authority (Pemra) and Hum TV channel to submit the recording of the programme referred to in the petition along with its transcription before the next date fixed.

Published in Dawn, November 12th, 2019