ISLAMABAD: The government-appointed three-man commission, set up to probe the veracity of various alleged audio leaks, on Saturday decided to put its proceedings on hold until the Supreme Court decided the petitions that have challenged its formation.
The development came a day after Chief Justice of Pakistan Umar Ata Bandial, while hearing a set of four petitions against the appointment of the commission, restrained the panel from going ahead with the task.
After AGP Mansoor Usman Awan read out the eight-page order announced by the five-judge SC bench on Friday, the commission led by Justice Qazi Faez Isa dissected one by one the contents of the order before adjourning proceedings.
Expressing his surprise, Justice Isa inquired whether the AGP had informed the five-judge bench that the commission was already cognisant of the fact and explained that it was in no way encroaching upon the domain of the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC).
Justice Isa examines SC bench’s order minutely; Maryam accuses CJP of ‘misusing’ his position
The AGP replied in the affirmative.
“We also know a little bit of the Constitution,” Justice Isa observed.
The AGP was asked whether Shoaib Shaheen, the counsel for petitioner Abid Shahid Zuberi, had informed the court about the commission’s order regarding SJC, and that the commission’s members were also entitled to a little bit of respect.
Justice Isa then regretted that he saw the petitioner in a talk-show speaking about the matter, which was sub judice.
“We are aware of Article 209 which deals with SJC since he is also a member of the council,” Justice Isa observed, wondering when a conversation of a judge was recorded illegally, should the court send the same to SJC without first determining the veracity of the audio and leave the concerned judge to remain on tenterhooks and destroy his life.
The question that who recorded the audio conversation was a secondary matter and will come later after ascertaining the authenticity of the leaks, he said.
Referring to Mr Shaheen’s arguments, Justice Isa observed that if all the complaints were routed straight to the SJC, before probing the authenticity of the conversation, then all the judges who were members of the council will remain busy all the time instead of doing their job of dispensing justice.
The commission wondered whether it was a party before the five-judge bench and was perturbed over the latter’s decision to stay its proceedings without issuing any notice.
But the AGP explained that in two of the petitions, filed by Mr Zuberi and Muqtadir Akhtar Shabbir, the commission was named as respondents along with the federal government, PTA and Pemra.
Citing rules, Justice Isa observed that orders were issued usually after hearing respondents, but none of the petitioners sent a notice to the commission.
He noted that none of the petitioners, though they extensively talked to the media on Friday, appeared before the commission with the exception of journalist Abdul Qayyum Siddiqui, a witness whose telephonic conversation was also tapped.
When Article 14 was mentioned by AGP while reading the court’s order, the commission observed that the provisions ensure inviolability of home but did not provide complete privacy.
Are the recordings of cameras installed on roads or the banks or markets not used to trace a crime like murder or should not the telephonic conversation of a kidnapper be recorded to prosecute him; could the offender claim privacy in this regard?
Referring to the mentioning of his petition before the Supreme Court against the presidential reference, Justice Isa pointed out that he had not denied the London properties but asked the person who had come out with the information regarding the properties, to show the steps he had taken for acquiring the information.
Justice Isa also asked the AGP to read some earlier paragraphs from the note of Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah, which was also mentioned in the eight-page order which emphasised that onus always was on the prosecution to prove a charge.
Justice Isa observed that the commission was entrusted to complete a task under an Act which is still in the field, adding he could recuse himself from this “painful task” but his oath demands that he should do the job entrusted upon it despite the fact that he was not paid extra.
Later in its order, the commission said: “AGP has read out order date May 26 passed in the constitution petition No 14 to 17/2023 which he states are petitions filed under Article 184(3) of the Constitution.”
We enquired from AGP whether the inquiry commission has been arrayed as a respondent and he stated that in the constitution petition No. 14 and 15/2023 the commission is arrayed as respondent No.2 through its secretary.
“In view of the aforesaid order, the proceedings of the commission are adjourned.”
Maryam assails CJP
Separately, PML-N chief organiser Maryam Nawaz criticised the verdict issued by the chief justice of Pakistan regarding the inquiry commission.
In a tweet, she said the SC order stopping the commission from investigating the veracity of audio leaks raised eyebrows regarding the chief justice’s role in the matter and accused him of using his position to save himself from accountability.
Should not they face the law if his or his mother-in-law’s hands are clear, she asked.
Published in Dawn, May 28th, 2023