Law Minister Farogh Naseem and Adviser to the Prime Minister on Interior and Accountability Mirza Shahzad Akbar have denied allegations made by former director general of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) Bashir Memon.
Speaking on Geo News' programme 'Aaj Shahzeb Khanzada Kay Saath' on Tuesday night, Memon alleged that he was pressured by Prime Minister Imran Khan, Naseem and Akbar to initiate a case against Justice Qazi Faez Isa. Memon's allegations, however, were swiftly denied by the government officials.
The law minister via Twitter refuted the "baseless allegations" levelled by Memon. "I have never discussed any issue regarding Justice Isa with Memon. Azam Khan, Shahzad Akbar and Memon have never come to my office together."
"Azam Khan has only come to my office once and that was all by himself only to discuss legal reforms," he said.
"PM Imran, Azam Khan or Shahzad Akbar have never ever stated to me that they have discussed anything with Memon about Justice Isa," he said.
Akbar also refuted claims of any such meeting about Justice Isa, calling the allegations "rubbish". "He was never called for any meeting with PM or myself on Justice Qazi Faez Isa issue, and there was no meeting with the law minister and him as he claims. Similarly he was never told to start any case against any specific individual."
"Only case referred to FIA was of sedition by the federal cabinet. I have instructed lawyers in personal capacity to initiate legal action for his slander," he said.
Later in the day, Akbar's lawyers sent a defamation notice worth Rs500 million to Memon terming his allegations as "false, politically motivated and absurd" and demanding an unconditional apology.
The notice stated that Memon "without any evidence or factual basis blamed [Akbar] of pressurising you in an alleged meeting held at [Akbar's] office and painted a false narrative as if [the premier's aide] holds some malicious agenda against" Justice Isa.
It said that Memon's "defamatory statements are only a continuation of a hateful media campaign which has been launched at the behest of those criminal and corrupt elements which current government is trying to investigate and prosecute in a completely transparent, fair and neutral manner; through a judicial forum".
The notice asked Memon to retract his statements within 14 days and issue an "unconditional public apology" via newspaper and electronic media along with paying Rs500mn as "compensation for causing irreparable damage to [Akbar's] reputation".
'Was pressured to proceed against Justice Isa'
Speaking to Geo News, the former FIA DG said that he was first called to the Prime Minister's Office where the premier told him he was "a very good officer" and to "have strength".
"At the time, I was not aware of the nature of the case and whom I was to proceed against [and] that it would concern a judge of the apex court."
He said that he was taken to Shahzad Akbar's office where it was revealed he was to proceed against Justice Isa. Later, he also allegedly visited the law minister's office. "Naseem was also convinced that a case should be made against Justice Isa and asked me to play a role."
Memon said he tried to explain how this was not possible as Justice Isa was a Supreme Court judge. "This is the job of the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) and it has the constitutional authority. It does not fall within the FIA's terms of reference (TORs)."
He claimed that the ministers still tried to convince him to proceed. "I gave examples from the law and the constitution, which in their opinion was the incorrect interpretation but then I had to put my foot down.
"How can the FIA and the police, which is a law enforcement agency, do something that is illegal and especially that which concerns a judge of the apex court?"
When asked on what grounds Naseem wanted to proceed against Justice Isa, Memon replied money laundering. "Their [stance] was that it was my mandate. My opinion was that the SJC could do this, or it could ask us to proceed, but the FIA could not do this at the government's request."
He stated that he had also consulted with his legal team, which had supported his decision.
When asked whether FBR official Ashfaq Ahmed, who Memon claimed was also present during the meetings, was convinced on filing a case, the former FIA DG said: "Whether it warrants a case or not is another matter. I didn't have the powers and I was of the opinion that this would go beyond my TORs."
He stated that the FBR official was of the opinion that he could proceed against Justice Isa. "I told him to go ahead [but asked] what do you get out of it? What are you doing with yourself?"
Commenting on Ahmed's denial of any such meeting taking place, Memon said: "I say let's have an open inquiry. Two to three years have passed since this happened, you can verify the dates."
On Monday, in a dramatic twist, the Supreme Court by a majority of six to four overturned its June 19, 2020 majority judgement that required verification and subsequent findings by the tax authorities of three foreign properties in the name of the wife and children of Justice Isa.
The presidential reference against Justice Isa — in line to become the chief justice on September 18, 2023, for 13 months — was already thrown out by the SC as “invalid” in June last year.
The reference by the government in May 2019 had alleged that Justice Isa acquired three properties in London on lease in the name of his wife and children between 2011 and 2015, but did not disclose them in his wealth returns. Through his petition, Justice Isa had pleaded before the court that the powers that be wanted to remove him from his constitutional office by hook or by crook. President Arif Alvi, he had claimed, did not form his own independent opinion before the filing of the reference against him.
Cases against opposition
The former FIA head claimed that he was told to proceed against several opposition leaders, including PML-N's Maryam and Nawaz Sharif, Rana Sanaullah, Khawaja Asif, Javed Latif, and PPP's Khursheed Shah and Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar.
"The FIA is not a gang. We have to follow a legal procedure." He claimed that the government did not want to "let the opposition go".
Commenting on Khawaja Asif, he said that being in possession of an Iqama [residence visa] was not a crime as it was a "work permit". "Also how does this become a treason case? For that we would have to present evidence in court to show that he compromised national security. Who will give us this evidence?"
He claimed that the government wanted him to arrest Asif for the time being, adding that the same was asked when it came to Maryam.
"They said a judge was terrorised — he has since passed away — and that makes it a terrorism case," he said, referring to Judge Arshad Malik who had convicted ex-premier Nawaz in the Al Azizia reference.
In October last year, Memon had alleged that he was summoned to the "highest office" and was told to file a terrorism case against members of PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz's social media cell after a picture of the first lady was circulated on social media.
In his interview with Shahzeb Khanzada, he again brought up the picture and alleged that the government ] wanted a terrorism case filed [against Maryam].
"Where is it written in the law? Everybody is equal before the law."
Responding to the allegations levelled by Memon, Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif said the former FIA DG's "startling revelations" endorsed what the PML-N leader has been saying for a long time.
"There is an unmistakable NAB-Niazi nexus that has been out to make forged cases against the PML-N and put its leaders behind bars. The farce stands exposed," he said.
Speaking to the media in Islamabad, Maryam said that this was the first time in the country's history that such serious allegations have been made against a sitting prime minister.
"Now the people understand what Sicilian mafias are. Heads of gangs have never done the things which are being carried out using the Prime Minister's Office."
She claimed that the prime minister was carrying out "political engineering" and using the PM Office to threaten the heads of state institutions. "What is the result of you wanting to persecute the opposition? The result is that Pakistan has been defamed across the world," she said, adding that the government was an "epic failure".
Commenting on the claims about Justice Isa — who she said would be appointed the Chief Justice of Pakistan in the future — Maryam said: "You conspired against him, a man who has followed the path of truth and justice. You said to arrest him.
"This is a serious matter," she said, adding that the PML-N would not let this go.
She also appealed to the judiciary to look into the matter, adding that Justice Isa and his family were persecuted because of the judgement he gave in the Faizabad sit-in case.
Additional reporting by Ali Waqar.