ISLAMABAD: Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah asked the judiciary to take steps to “prevent an irreparable loss to its credibility” after audio clips emerged on Thursday in which PML-Q leader Parvez Elahi was purportedly heard asking his lawyers to fix a corruption case before a particular Supreme Court judge.
Mr Sanaullah played the audio clips at a press conference and said he had directed the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) to register a case against Parvez Elahi and arrest him after authenticating the audio through a forensic audit.
In the audio clips played at the presser, the man believed to be Mr Elahi could be heard asking two known lawyers to get the Rs460 million corruption case against his former principal secretary Muhammad Khan Bhatti fixed before a sitting apex court judge supposedly “managed” by him.
The interior minister said if the second part of the audio was found to be genuine, the matter could also be sent to the chief justice or the Supreme Judicial Council to “secure the respect of judiciary”.
He alleged that those who were piggybacked by the establishment to the corridors of power now wanted to ride the judiciary’s shoulders. “They want to make the judiciary subservient to get decisions (of their choice),” he said.
Speaking about a Lahore High Court’s (LHC) verdict rejecting PTI chief Imran Khan’s bail plea, Mr Sanaullah said that in his view, the former premier should be arrested after he failed to appear before the court.
“It seems like they [PTI] are trying to influence the courts … his [Imran’s] refusal to appear before the court despite several summons is tantamount to making a mockery of the superior court,” Mr Sanaullah said while referring to the LHC proceedings.
The minister said the team investigating a case against Mr Khan should proceed as per the law.
In one of the audio clips played at Mr Sanaullah’s presser, the man believed to be Mr Elahi could be heard telling a man to get Mr Bhatti’s case fixed before a sitting Supreme Court judge.
The man then responded by saying that “he will go to Islamabad today”. “He was saying today that they’ll send [the case] to Islamabad. We will try in the process which starts after that,” the man added.
The voice purportedly of PML-Q leader then went on to say that the judge was “very audacious”, to which the man replied: “Yes, he is, I know (him).”
In the second alleged audio clip, Mr Elahi purportedly told another man that a specific case had to be fixed for hearing before the Supreme Court judge.
The other man is then heard asking whether the case had been filed, to which Mr Elahi responded in the affirmative and then referred him to the man Mr Elahi talked to in the previous audio for details. “It will be alright. Do not share this with anybody,” Mr Elahi could be purportedly heard as saying.
The man then talked about the case of former Lahore CCPO Ghulam Muhammad Dogar and Mr Elahi purportedly said he would talk (manage).
In yet another audio, Mr Elahi was purportedly talking to the judge he wanted the case to be fixed before. His voice could be heard telling the judge that he was coming to meet him. The man on the other side tried to convince him that it would not be appropriate, but Mr Elahi insisted he was close by and would be coming without protocol. He also says he will pay Salam and leave.
Elahi says ‘nothing wrong’
Later, in the evening, Mr Elahi issued a statement reacting to the audio leak. In the statement, in which Mr Elahi neither confirmed nor denied the contents of the leak, he insisted that he had not said anything wrong in the clip.
He said the conversation with a lawyer regarding Mr Bhatti’s case had been taped and “misrepresented”. He said Mr Bhatti had been missing for 10 days and his wife had appealed to the Supreme Court for his recovery.
“They are trying to prove that it’s a sin if a person approaches the courts for justice through his lawyers,” Mr Elahi stated, adding that the PML-N leadership “is running a systematic campaign against the judiciary”.
Reacting to the interior minister’s press conference, PTI leader Fawad Chaudhry said he was hopeful that the Chief Justice of Pakistan and other Supreme Court judges would bear every pressure in the way of their oath to uphold the Constitution.
“The mafia will bring them under pressure in every way. Let’s see if the Constitution is revived or we become a regular banana republic,” he tweeted.
He said Mr Sanaullah’s press conference was an admission that the federal government itself was behind the audio campaign against the top-court judges.
“This is a serious violation of the Constitution. Benazir Bhutto government was dismissed on this charge,” he said, adding that the Supreme Court should summon Rana Sanaullah and fix responsibility on this count.
Meanwhile, the lawyer believed to be featured in one of the clips dismissed the audio as concocted.
“I have gone through the audio recording and I categorically state that this audio is doctored. My office is doing a case in the Sindh High Court of a ‘missing person’, one Mr Muhammad Khan Bhatti, who was a close aide to Mr Elahi and had conversation in this regard. This case has nothing to do with any pending proceedings in the Supreme Court,” he said in a statement.
Published in Dawn, February 17th, 2023