Former chief justice of Gilgit-Baltistan Rana Shamim's counsel on Tuesday confirmed to the Islamabad High Court that the content of an affidavit attributed to his client — in which he accused former jurist Mian Saqib Nisar of colluding to deny bails to top PML-N leadership before general elections 2018 — were indeed accurate.
He, however, added that the affidavit was not supposed to be published.
During the previous hearing on Nov 30, the court had directed Shamim to submit the original affidavit — which the former judge claimed was with his family in the United Kingdom — as well as his response within four days.
Shamim, the investigative report's author Ansar Abbasi and The News editor Aamir Ghouri as well as Attorney General Khalid Jawed Khan and Advocate General of Islamabad Niazullah Khan Niazi were present in court for the hearing. Editor-in-chief of Jang Group Mir Shakeel-ur-Rehman's counsel filed an application for exemption.
In the 'leaked' affidavit — dated November 10, 2021 — on which Ansar Abbasi's report was based, Shamim allegedly stated that the ex-CJP during his visit to GB made a call to an IHC judge and asked him to ensure that Nawaz and his daughter are not released on bail before July 25, 2018 general elections. The alleged affidavit was published as part of an investigative report by The News International.
Justice Minallah had subsequently taken notice of the report and later issued show-cause notices to Abbasi, Rehman, Ghouri as well as Shamim under the Contempt of Court Ordinance.
Abbasi, Rehman and Ghouri had already submitted their responses to the court prior to the hearing last week but Shamim had not, saying he had yet to examine the affidavit.
At the outset of today's hearing, Justice Minallah recalled that Shamim had said he had not given his affidavit to the media, observing that it had raised questions about the judiciary. "Are these the journalistic standards that such reports are published?"
The report had created a narrative of levelling allegations against judges, Justice Minallah said, remarking that members of the judiciary could not hold press conferences to present their stance. The judges are being pressured in this manner, he added.
"The names of respected judges of this court were taken who were not even present in the country at that time. Why did Rana Shamim write an affidavit after three years? It must be for some purpose," he further remarked.
"The public was given the perception that the chief justice pressured judges of this court. The timing of the story's publication is important because [the hearing] on an appeal is under way," Justice Minallah observed, referring to Maryam Nawaz's appeal against her conviction in the Avenfield reference.
Justice Minallah noted that Shamim said he had not given his affidavit to the media, observing that affidavits related to cases were submitted in the courts.
"I am proud of and trust all my judges," he said, adding the court will not allow anyone to damage the public's trust in the judiciary.
Justice Minallah asked Shamim's counsel, Lateef Afridi, to view the case as amici curiae and not in the role of Shamim's lawyer.
"The late Justice Waqar Seth never said that someone pressurised him," he said. Justice Seth, who passed away last year, was the head of the a three-member bench of a special court that found former military ruler retired Gen Pervez Musharraf guilty of high treason and handed him a death sentence under Article 6 of the Constitution in 2019.
"His decisions are still alive."
The IHC chief justice asked Afridi to not treat the case as a matter of contempt of court.
Afridi said his client had not rejected the affidavit but reiterated that the ex-judge had not given it to the media. "The content of the affidavit is accurate but it was not given for publication," he said.
"Where is the document right now?" the IHC chief justice questioned.
The counsel informed the court that the original affidavit was with Shamim's grandson, who was "underground" in the United Kingdom because he was being harassed.
Justice Minallah remarked that people did not go into hiding in the UK, adding that the high court was being "targeted" and the submission of the original affidavit was necessary for progress in the case.
Attorney General Khalid Jawed Khan said he had written letters to Shamim and the Pakistan High Commission in the UK after the court's written order on Nov 30 to assist with presenting the affidavit in the court.
Responding to Afridi's claim that Shamim's grandson was being harassed in the UK, Khan termed it a serious matter and asked the lawyer to inform the court who was behind the harassment.
Afridi argued that there had been three deaths within a short span of time in Shamim's family and requested the court to allow the ex-GB chief justice to fly abroad so he could produce the original affidavit.
"Rana Shamim does not need to go abroad. He cannot go abroad," the IHC chief justice said, iterating that the original document was necessary to make progress in the case.
If the ex-judge had written the affidavit for some other purpose and it was not meant for publication, there would be consequences, Justice Minallah warned.
Speaking to reporters after the hearing, Afridi said Shamim "himself accepts that it (the affidavit) is correct. Whatever is in the affidavit, whatever happened, is correct".
Shamim submits written response
In his written response submitted to the court — dated Dec 4 — Shamim said he had not circulated his affidavit to the press or shared it with anyone.
"The only compelling force behind executing this statement in the form of an affidavit was a promise with my late wife before her death that I must get this fact [produced] in writing and preserve the same to get the record straight [...] Had there been any intention of ridiculing the judiciary, the same would have been tendered in Pakistan and released to various media outlets," the response, a copy of which is available with Dawn.com, stated.
The ex-judge said that he stayed in London for two days on his way back from the United States where he met his maternal grandson who is a law student. "Since I had no intention of making it public in Pakistan during my lifetime, I deemed it appropriate to the get the statement recorded and notarised outside Pakistan and also to be kept in safe custody outside Pakistan."
After getting the affidavit notarised, Shamim had handed it to his grandson, instructing him to neither open it himself nor share with anyone else, according to the response.
Shamim said he had "no clue or knowledge" how the reporter (Abbasi) got the affidavit. The talk between Shamim and ex-CJP Nisar took place in Gilgit, which "is an area outside the territory of Pakistan, as such the answering respondent cannot be made subject to contempt proceedings", according to the response.
Shamim stated that the affidavit was based on the conversation he heard in GB and no malafide intention could be attributed to him unless it was proved his statement was false.
Shamim said he was "ready to state the facts mentioned in statement on solemn oath [...] and confront the person mentioned in the affidavit, ie, the former chief justice of Pakistan, Mian Saqib Nisar".
He also attached a copy of the affidavit that he said was circulating on social media, the "contents of which are the same as acknowledged by [me]".
Shamim said he "felt no hesitation in expressing [my] regrets" if the affidavit has "caused any annoyance" to the court.
Exit Control List
Meanwhile, the advocate general of Islamabad wrote a letter to the capital's chief commissioner to start the process for putting Shamim's name on the Exit Control List (ECL).
"Rana Mohammad Shamim is facing contempt proceedings before the Honourable Islamabad High Court [...] the respondent alleged contemnor is a flight risk. Should he flee the country, serious prejudice may be caused to the ongoing proceedings and in effect to the rule of law and independence of judiciary," the letter stated and requested immediate action.
Court asks Shamim to submit original affidavit
In the last hearing, Shamim had distanced himself from a 'leaked' affidavit attributed to him in the report published by The News, saying he had yet to examine it and adding that the actual affidavit was sealed and in a locker in the UK. IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah had subsequently directed him to produce the original affidavit as well as his written response.
The court had warned: "In case the original document/ affidavit, on the basis of which the news report was published, is not produced before this court on the date fixed then it would raise a presumption of its non-existence."
During the last hearing on Nov 30, when the court asked Shamim about the authenticity of the affidavit published in the newspaper, he replied that he neither read the news item nor remembered the contents of the affidavit since after signing it, he kept the same in a locker with his family residing in the UK.
Attorney General Khalid Jawed Khan quipped that Shamim remembered each and every detail of ex-CJP Saqib Nisar's visit to GB in 2018 but forgot what he had stated on oath on Nov 10.
In reply to the court's queries, Shamim said his response was obtained by The News International after publication of the news report. He stated he had not provided any document's copy, as the document executed by him was sealed and kept in a locker in the UK.
According to Shamim, the key of the locker was in possession of his grandson.
The court then directed the ex-chief judge to submit his written reply within four days along with the original document/affidavit that he claimed was sealed and kept in a locker in the UK.
The attorney general was directed to coordinate with Shamim to facilitate delivery of the document/affidavit from the UK, while the foreign secretary and Pakistan High Commission in the UK were asked to assist the attorney general in this regard.