KARACHI: As the controversy over the role of an aide to the prime minister in filing of a reference against a Supreme Court judge deepened, Adviser to the Prime Minister on Accountability and Interior Mirza Shahzad Akbar on Wednesday denied he had pressured former Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) director general Bashir A. Memon into filing the reference against Justice Qazi Faez Isa.

Law Minister Farogh Nasim came forward to lend support to Mr Akbar, asking why the former FIA head had not spoken out during the past several months. Also, Mr Akbar sent a legal notice to Mr Memon stating that his ‘libellous statements’ were ‘completely untrue’.

The ex-DG in a recent talk show on Geo News had alleged that the law minister and PM’s aide on accountability in the latter’s office had asked him to proceed against Justice Isa on money laundering charges, but he had refused as “the agency had no grounds to do so, especially since the matter pertained to a Supreme Court judge”.

Shahzad sends libel notice to former FIA chief; PML-N seeks judicial commission to probe ‘conspiracy’ against judge

The matter came to public attention a day after the Supreme Court larger bench accepted Justice Isa’s review petition with a majority verdict, declaring all the actions taken by the Federal Board of Revenue and other government institutions against the honourable judge ‘illegal’.

According to the legal notice sent to the former FIA DG, Mr Akbar demanded that Mr Memon retract defamatory statements and issue an unconditional public apology, pay Rs500 million as compensation for causing damage to his reputation along with Rs2 million as legal fee or face consequences.

This is not for the first time that Mr Akbar is facing such a challenge as his name had come up in multiple controversies earlier as well including the Broadsheet scandal and one related to his credentials.

The notice said Shahzad, an honest and law abiding citizen appointed by the president on the basis of a distinguished professional career in law and human rights, never pressurised Mr Memon to use the FIA to harass or victimise him (judge) or any other individual.

“You being a former police officer ought to have known that raising imputation without any evidence or factual basis, fabricating or twisting facts to narrate a completely untrue and misleading account is a criminal offence,” the notice said.

It added that he was liable to make good all losses caused to the adviser to the prime minister if he did not retract his defamatory statement or issue an unconditional apology within 14 days through media or else legal proceedings would be initiated against him.

In his interview on Geo News show ‘Aaj Shahzeb Khanzada Kay Sath’, the ex-DG FIA had said: “It was in Akbar’s office that I got to know that the case PM Imran was referring to was to be filed against Justice Qazi Faez Isa. I told Akbar categorically that it was not possible for me to do that.”

Mr Memon said he was then taken to the law minister’s office, where Dr Ashfaque of the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) was also present, saying that Farogh Nasim was also convinced that a case against Justice Isa could be filed. He alleged minister Nasim believed Dr Ashfaque was in possession of some data that could be used to file a case against Justice Isa. However, Mr Memon claimed he told them clearly that it was not possible for him to book the Supreme Court judge. The law minister disagreed with him and said the FIA and FBR could cooperate and make a case against the judge on the basis of the data Dr Ashfaque had with him. The law minister also claimed, according to Mr Memon, he would contest the case himself in court.

The ex-DG FIA said he had to “put his foot down” and told them (Mr Nasim, Mr Akbar and Azam Khan who was also present there according to him) that the rules concerning the judiciary’s internal affairs were quite clear. He made it clear that acting against a judge was beyond the FIA’s terms of reference.

As the controversy deepened, the law minister also refuted the allegations. On a TV show, Mr Nasim questioned why Mr Memon had not come up with the evidence and spoken out for the past couple of years.

The law minister in a series of tweets said he had never discussed any issue regarding Justice Isa with Mr Memon. Azam Khan, Mr Akbar and Mr Memon had “never come to my office together”, he said, adding that the only time Mr Azam came to his office was to discuss legal reforms. Besides, he said, the prime minister, Mr Azam or Mr Akbar had never told him they had discussed anything with Mr Memon about Justice Isa.

Conspiracy

Referring to the controversy, the opposition Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz vice president Maryam Nawaz said the PML-N was weighing options of filing a petition seeking formation of a judicial commission to probe into the ‘conspiracy’ behind filing of references against Justice Qazi Faez Isa of the Supreme Court and former judge of the Islamabad High Court Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui.

Ms Nawaz urged the superior judiciary to take cognisance of this matter since it was very serious in nature and related to the independence of the judiciary.

She criticised Prime Minister Imran Khan over the interview of the former FIA director general. She said it had never happened in the history that a top official levelled such serious allegations against a sitting PM. “As far as I recollect it is unprecedented in the history that someone accused the sitting prime minister of behaving like a gangster,” the PML-N leader remarked.

The opposition party also referred to the statements of Justice Siddiqui and Judge Arshad Malik besides Mr Memon, saying that they had testified against the ‘unprecedented political engineering’.

“People have now realized who the Sicilian mafia is. How he [PM] summons heads of institutions to direct them to arrest opposition leaders first and then look for the charges to be framed against them later on,” she said.

She added that this was the mindset of the rulers as they had to bear such government which brought disrepute for the country at every front.

According to her, the 2014 sit-in was also a conspiracy and people had understood well how Mr Khan had come to power.

Published in Dawn, April 29th, 2021

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