PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz on Wednesday called the explosive affidavit by former chief judge of Gilgit-Baltistan Rana Mohammad Shamim "the third major testimony from within the judiciary" that she claimed proved her and her father Nawaz Sharif's innocence.
She was speaking outside the Islamabad High Court (IHC) which conducted a hearing on Maryam's appeal seeking annulment of her conviction in the Avenfield apartments reference.
The Avenfield proceedings were thrust into the limelight on Monday after The News ran a report carrying allegations by Justice Shamim that former chief justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar had influenced judicial proceedings to prolong Nawaz and Maryam's detention following their conviction in the reference.
The IHC had taken notice of the report the same day and during Tuesday's hearing, issued show-cause notices to The News editor Aamir Ghouri and journalist Ansar Abbasi, judge Shamim, and editor-in-chief of Jang Group Mir Shakeel-ur-Rehman.
"We knew that the oppressors' days were numbered but we didn't expect the truth would come to light so soon," said Maryam while talking to the media on Wednesday.
She named former IHC judge Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui and the late accountability judge Arshad Malik as the other two "witnesses" who spoke the truth [about Nawaz's innocence].
"Instead of his statement being taken seriously, he [Siddiqui] was expelled from service. His case was then referred to the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) and he is waiting for justice," she said, alleging the case of Arshad Malik was "deliberately ignored".
"The man who had announced the conviction [in the Al Azizia reference] gave a statement expressing the truth about Nawaz Sharif in his life."
Justice Siddiqui in 2018 had claimed that personnel of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) were manipulating judicial proceedings, particularly ones involving Nawaz and Maryam.
In July 2019, Maryam Nawaz had presented recorded video clips of judge Malik in which she claimed the judge admitted to convicting Nawaz unjustly due to "immense pressure".
The judge, who passed away in 2020, had denied the allegations at the time, saying there was no pressure on him to convict Sharif and that the videos shown by Maryam were "fake and based on lies".
Referring to the IHC's proceedings on The News report, she said that the first notice should have been sent to former CJP Nisar.
She questioned why a former chief justice was exempted from court appearance, especially when three-time former prime minister Sharif never objected to appearing in courts in cases against him.
She said Sharif's innocence was proven by three judges, "but the verdict against him is still intact and the nation is watching all of this."
The PML-N leader said the former GB judge made his statement under oath and had also asked Nisar to submit his response in the same manner, but the latter "ran away".
She accused the former CJP of targeting PML-N leaders for the framing of contempt-of-court charges to "stop them from contesting elections".
"Talal Chaudhry and many others were targeted through suo motu notices," she alleged. "They were thrown out of electoral competition under a plan because he [ex-CJP] knew these people will be elected to strengthen the electoral muscle of the PML-N."
She also called the statement of former CJP Nisar declaring PM Imran Khan 'Sadiq' and 'Ameen' (honest and righteous) a "biggest sin". She held the former top judge responsible for "all the crisis Pakistan is facing today".
"I request the people who were a part of a conspiracy against Nawaz Sharif that 'Project Imran Khan' is nothing more than humiliation and destruction, and they must undo historic injustices doled out to him. He (Sharif) suffered oppression for five years. It's enough. Release him now," she appealed.
Following Tuesday's proceedings on the publication of the story, IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah had noted in the court order: “The allegations made in the purported affidavit definitely amounted to grave misconduct. It was his [Shamim] duty to have immediately reported the matter to the Supreme Judicial Council because he himself was holding a responsible judicial office".
Justice Minallah held that “in the facts and circumstances, there is a presumption that the contents of the purported affidavit are false unless these are rebutted”. He, however, made it clear that he would not hesitate to proceed against former CJP Nisar if the respondents bring any iota of evidence to substantiate the allegations.
'Prove charges with evidence,' IHC tells NAB
During the Avenfield Apartments case hearing earlier in the day, the IHC bench comprising Justice Aamer Farooq and Justice Mohsin Akhtar Kayani directed the prosecutor of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to furnish arguments and prove with evidence the charges against the respondent [Maryam Nawaz] that she was a beneficial owner of the apartment.
In response, NAB prosecutor Sardar Muzaffar Abbasi sought two weeks' time to file a response on behalf of the watchdog.
During the hearing, the NAB prosecutor contended that Maryam was the beneficial owner of the Avenfield Apartments who allegedly helped her father hide his ownership. He said the financial sources used to purchase the apartment were also not disclosed.
Justice Kayani questioned how a daughter could be found guilty if the buyer did not disclose the source. He also asked whether abetting and aiding a crime could be proven from that fact.
The IHC bench remarked that a decision of the Supreme Court was its opinion, while the trial was a different matter. "The prosecution has to tell everything in the trial," it added.
The court said the NAB considered Maryam a beneficial owner, while the latter argued she was a trustee. "Now you have to prove the charges with evidence," remarked the court before adjourning the hearing till Nov 24.
An accountability had on July 6, 2018 — 19 days before the general elections — convicted PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif, PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz and her husband retired Captain Mohammad Safdar in the Avenfield Apartment reference and handed them jail terms of 10, seven and one years, respectively, for owning assets beyond known sources of income.
The Avenfield reference ─ which pertains to the purchase of four flats in Avenfield House, Park Lane, London ─ was among the three cases filed by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) against the former premier and his children on the Supreme Court's orders in its landmark July 28 Panamagate verdict.
Maryam was subsequently arrested by NAB and sent to Adiala jail. She filed an appeal against the verdict and was released from jail in September 2018 after the IHC granted her bail and suspended her prison sentence.
Regarding the Avenfield case hearing, Maryam, in her press talk today, said the NAB had sought a two-week time, claiming that "they have no real grounds to hurl accusations in the case."
'Outright violations of law'
On October 5, 2021, Maryam had filed a new appeal in the IHC seeking annulment of the verdict in the reference.
Her latest application was filed "in consequence of certain extremely relevant, simple and clear-cut facts which have come to light after the pronouncement of judgement and sentence" in the case, according to a copy of the petition available with Dawn.com.
In the application, Maryam stated that the entire proceedings that resulted in her conviction were a "classic example of outright violations of law and political engineering hitherto unheard of in the history of Pakistan".
She also attached a reference to the speech made by former IHC judge Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui at the District Bar Association, Rawalpindi on July 21, 2018, wherein he had claimed that the country's top intelligence agency was involved in manipulating judicial proceedings.
"The ISI officials had approached the chief justice asking him to make sure Nawaz and his daughter should not be bailed before the elections," reads the petition, quoting an excerpt from ex-judge Siddiqui's speech.
In a subsequent hearing on Oct 13, her lawyer had argued that legal procedure was not followed in the reference, claiming that it was not based on any evidence and saw numerous mistakes being committed at the pre-trial stage.