PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif and Vice President Maryam Nawaz on Friday said that the reported dismissal of former Islamabad accountability court judge Arshad Malik "proved the innocence" of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif.
"Mian sb's sentence ought to be declared null and void," said Shehbaz of his brother's seven-year sentence in the Al Azizia corruption reference.
Shehbaz was reacting to media reports that the Lahore High Court (LHC) had dismissed the judge who had convicted Nawaz in the Al-Azizia reference. According to sources, an administrative committee, headed by LHC Chief Justice Mohammad Qasim Khan, approved the dismissal of the accountability court judge earlier on Friday.
It is pertinent to mention that no official notification has been issued in this regard as yet.
Last year in July, the Islamabad High Court had removed Malik from his post amid a controversy surrounding a leaked videotape showing his purported confession that he had been “pressurised and blackmailed” to convict Nawaz Sharif in the Al Azizia corruption reference.
The judge had denied the allegations, saying there was no pressure on him to convict Sharif and that the videos shown by Maryam Nawaz of his alleged confession at a press conference were "fake and based on lies".
In a statement on Friday, Shehbaz welcomed the reported decision of Malik's dismissal and said that justice had finally been served. "This proves that his [Malik's] decision was not just and [Nawaz] was punished unfairly."
He added that in light of this, it was expected the verdict against Nawaz would be withdrawn. "The LHC administration committee's decision is proof of his innocence."
He appealed to party workers and the public to offer prayers of gratitude.
PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz also hailed the media reports, calling it a victory. "The decision has washed away a stain on Nawaz and on the institution of justice."
She added that in light of the decision, the "tainted" judge's decision regarding Nawaz should be withdrawn.
"Justice is never incomplete. It dictates that [Malik's] decision be declared void in the same way he was dismissed."
She added that it was very easy to preach about the law and the Constitution. "You need Nawaz's bravery to face the law, knowing that you are innocent and that your spouse is on their death bed," she said, adding that her father's perseverance had finally prevailed.
Meanwhile, Information Minister Shibli Faraz said Malik’s dismissal was the "drop scene of an era where certain judges were blackmailed through cronies".
Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Accountability Shahzad Akbar said in a tweet that "it should be remembered that Al Azizia case was transferred to the court of judge Arshad Malik on the request of the accused, Nawaz Sharif, and a man involved in this case, Nasir Butt, was an old acquaintance of Arshad Malik."
"The Sharif family has played such tricks with the judiciary in the past as well. The Justice Qayyum saga should be remembered [in this regard]," he added.
The seven-member administration committee, headed by the then LHC chief justice Sardar Muhammad Shamim Khan, in its meeting on Aug 26 last year had approved an inquiry against District and Sessions Judge Arshad Malik. Justice Sardar Ahmad Naeem of the LHC had been tasked with the inquiry. The PML-N had accused judge Malik of convicting former prime minister Nawaz Sharif in the Al-Azizia reference under duress. However, the judge had acquitted Nawaz of the charges in the Flagship Investments reference.
After Maryam had released alleged video/audio clips of judge Malik at a press conference in July, the IHC had summoned him and directed him to submit an affidavit explaining his position.
In his affidavit, the judge had denied the party’s claim, saying he had been blackmailed by PML-N supporters through an “immoral video”. He also admitted to meeting with Nawaz at Jati Umra residence and his son Hussain in Saudi Arabia.
The controversy continued to make news as Maryam released two more video clips "in support" of the first one.
Finally, the IHC on Aug 22 had suspended and repatriated the judge to the LHC, his parent department, for further disciplinary proceedings.
A notification issued by the IHC registrar had said: “The disclosure and admission made by Mr Muhammad Arshad Malik, district & sessions judge/former judge accountability court-II Islamabad in a press release dated July 7, 2019 and the affidavit dated July 11, 2019, prima facie, constitute acts of misconduct and violation of the code of conduct, which warrant initiation of disciplinary proceedings against him.”
The LHC on Sept 14 made the judge an officer on special duty from the date of his suspension and posted him to the sessions court.
The Federal Investigation Agency also launched an inquiry into the video scandal and initially arrested three persons on charges of pressurising and blackmailing judge Malik. They were later exonerated by a judicial magistrate.