LAHORE: A view of the PML-N office after the raid.—Dawn
LAHORE: A view of the PML-N office after the raid.—Dawn

LAHORE: The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) on Thursday raided the PML-N’s provincial secretariat to obtain purported videotapes of accountability judge Arshad Malik who had convicted former prime minister Nawaz Sharif in the Al-Azizia Mills corruption case.

Four members of the FIA’s cybercrime wing accompanied by a heavy contingent of police raided the PML-N secretariat at 180-H in Model Town to find the “tapes”.

The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz said the raid was aimed at harassing its leaders and decided to get an FIR registered against FIA chief Wajid Zia and hold a demonstration outside the agency’s building on Temple Road on Friday to lodge its protest.

According to a source, the FIA team searched the PML-N secretariat’s main hall and IT room for about 40 minutes and took away the hardware of the computer believing that the purported video was run on it. A heavy contingent of police was deployed ahead of the FIA raid to stop the PML-N workers from creating any hindrance. PML-N deputy secretary general Attaullah Tarar allowed the search after seeing the [search] warrants.

On July 6, PML-N vice president Maryam Nawaz had held a press conference at the Model Town secretariat and played a ‘secretly recorded’ video in which judge Arshad Malik was allegedly seen saying that he was pressurised into convicting her father Nawaz Sharif in the Al-Azizia reference.

Judge Malik was suspended subsequently and is facing an inquiry in this respect.

Maryam had claimed that the video tapes had been provided by a ‘PML-N sympathiser’.

The FIA has summoned PML-N Senator Pervaiz Rashid and party’s Punjab information secretary MPA Azma Bokhari on Dec 30, and Attaullah Tarar on Dec 27 (today) at its Lahore office to record their statements. The source believes the FIA may also summon Maryam Nawaz as part of its extended investigation into the matter. “However, without an order from the top, the FIA will not proceed against Maryam,” he said.

After releasing the pictures of the FIA raid later in the evening, PML-N information secretary Marriyum Auranzeb announced getting an FIR registered against the FIA chief for “vandalism”. “The PML-N has decided to register an FIR of dacoity and vandalism against Wajid Zia. This illegal raid by FIA has proved that everything the judge said in the video was true to the last word. This also proved that the video of judge Malik was absolutely authentic and he sentenced Nawaz Sharif under pressure.”

She claimed that the raid had been conducted at the behest of Prime Minister Imran Khan. “Just because this imposed regime of the selected prime minister could not find a single evidence of corruption, he has now stooped down further to use FIA to harass and pressurise PMLN.”

Ms Auranzeb said the party would hold a rally on Friday in protest against the FIA raid. She said that after the failure of NAB-Niazi nexus against the PML-N, the PTI government engaged the FIA for the purpose.

She said the raid had also proved a story behind replacing FIA chief Bashir Memon with Wajid Zia. “Mr Memon had refused to become a tool of Imran Khan Niazi. After which a man known for his anti-Nawaz sentiments has been given the task [to go after the PML-N],” she added.

Criticising the PTI government for engaging the FIA as part of its revenge tactics against the PML-N after the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), Attaullah Tarar said: “The raid on PML-N secretariat shows the fascist mindset of the PTI.”

Why the government was reluctant to carry out forensic audit of the original video presented by Nasir Butt, he asked, adding that judge Malik had confided to Mr Butt that he had given the verdict under pressure. “Even the apex court observed that judge Malik had disgraced the judiciary,” Mr Tarar said.

Since the three PML-N leaders had already been summoned to record their statements in this regard, why the FIA felt the need to raid the PML-N secretariat, he wondered. Mr Tarar said Nasir Butt had gone to the Pakistan High Commission in London to submit the original video, but it did not receive it on the “directive from Imran Niazi”.

Azma Bokhari said in a statement that those present at the [Maryam’s] presser had submitted their reply in this regard. “The FIA’s raid at the party office was only aimed at harassing and putting pressure on its leaders.” She said Imran Khan continued using the state institutions against the opposition after his failure to prove evidence against the detained leaders.

Published in Dawn, December 27th, 2019