The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Wednesday summoned Jang/Geo media group owner Mir Shakilur Rehman over anti-judiciary advertisements published in English daily The News International over the past two days.
The court, which had taken notice of the matter, also asked Rehman and the newspaper's editor, Amir Ghauri, to submit affidavits tendering an apology.
The advertisements in question were printed in the newspaper's May 23 and 24 editions.
These ads, according to the media outlet, were sponsored by the family of Barrister Fahad Malik, who was gunned down in Islamabad in 2016. It called on Chief Justice of Pakistan Umar (CJP) Umar Ata Bandial to take notice, claiming that the killers "had struck a deal with the ruling judge in the case".
The family urged the CJP to allow the case to be transferred to an "impartial and non-partisan judge of dignity". They also called for establishing a larger bench to hear the appeal pending in the apex court against the removal of terrorism clauses in the case.
They also requested to ensure that the accused was not removed from the jurisdiction in which the crime was committed, and also asked for the appointment of a monitoring judge to ensure "smooth and equitable dispensation of justice".
In today's edition, the paper [issued an apology] saying that the staff concerned overlooked the advertisement since it came from the family of the late barrister and was released by a known advertising agency.
"The senior management of The News International has ordered an inquiry to probe the matter. Further directions are also passed by the senior management for future to more carefully examine the content of any advertisement being published in the newspaper," it said.
Ghauri appeared before IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah during today's hearing where the latter said that the advertisements printed by the paper did not come under "journalistic reporting".
"You used the picture of the honourable chief justice of Pakistan in the advertisements," Justice Minallah told Ghauri, adding that this matter could not be ignored "at any cost".
Justice Minallah stated that the newspaper had printed advertisements against the judiciary for commercial purposes. "We will not turn a blind eye. Printing such an advertisement is a serious issue," he said.
The newspaper's editor apologised to the court over the advertisements but the IHC CJ reiterated that this matter could not be ignored.
"Ask Mir Shakilur Rehman to personally appear before the court. Do you realise that you printed an advertisement on a matter that is currently under trial?" he asked.
Ghauri told the court that the family of Barrister Fahad Malik had commissioned the advertisement, "Publishing the advertisement was an unintentional mistake," Ghauri said.
"You published the advertisement for two days and are now saying that it was an unintentional mistake," the IHC CJ replied, adding that it had accused a judge of "making a deal". He directed Rehman to appear in person at the next hearing schedule for Monday (May 30).
This has become a joke where one feels they can say anything about the judiciary, the IHC CJ said.
The lawyer representing Jang/Geo media group thanked the court for taking notice and said that it had printed an apology in today's edition. Wednesday's edition was also presented before the court.
"The court will not make any concessions in this matter," Justice Minallah said, adding that the newspaper should print an apology on the entirety of tomorrow's front page.
The IHC CJ stated that the apology printed by the paper was a mere eyewash, to which Ghauri assured the court that an apology would be printed in tomorrow's issue.
"Do whatever you want, but submit affidavits to the court and tell Mir Shakilur Rehman to appear in person," the judge said. The hearing was adjourned till 10am on Monday (May 30).