• Claim ‘bugs’ found in judge’s home, recount ‘torture’ of colleague’s relative
• Ask if it is state policy to ‘intimidate’ judiciary for favourable outcomes

ISLAMABAD: In a startling letter written to the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) members, six Islamabad High Court (IHC) judges have accused the country’s intelligence apparatus of interference in judicial affairs, including attempts to pressure judges through abduction and torture of their relatives and secret surveillance inside their homes.

The letter, addressed to Chief Justice Qazi Faez Isa, Supreme Court Justices Mansoor Ali Shah and Munib Akhtar and chief justices of the IHC and Peshawar High Court, also questioned if there exists a state police to “intimidate” and coerce judges.

The letter, dated March 25, has been signed by Justices Mohsin Akhtar Kayani, Tariq Mehmood Jahangiri, Babar Sattar, Sardar Ejaz Ishaq Khan, Arbab Muhammad Tahir and Saman Rafat Imtiaz of the IHC.

The letter mentioned seven instances of alleged interference and intimidation “to influence the outcome of cases of interest” by the intelligence officials, pointing out that when two out of three judges in the bench hearing the plea to disqualify PTI leader Imran Khan for concealing his alleged daughter opined that the case was not maintainable, they were pressured by “operatives of the ISI” through friends and relatives.

The situation got so stressful that one of the judges had to be admitted to hospital due to high blood pressure, the letter said.

According to the six judges, the matter was brought to the notice of the IHC chief justice and the then-CJP. The former informed the judges that he had “spoken to the DG-C of ISI and had been assured that no official from ISI will approach the judges of the IHC”.

The letter complained that “interference on the part of intelligence operatives” continued even after IHC CJ’s assurance.

The letter also referred to the abduction of an IHC judge’s brother-in-law by armed men who claimed to be ISI operatives.

The victim was “administered electric shocks” and “forced to record a video” making false allegations, apparently against the judge.

“Subsequently, a complaint was filed against the judge of IHC before the SJC, accompanied by an orchestrated media campaign to bring pressure to bear upon the judge to resign.”

The letter revealed that in May 2023, an IHC inspection judge reported to the chief justice that district court judges were being intimidated and crackers were thrown into the house of one additional district and sessions judge.

The judge was even called to the IHC to verify the claims which he confirmed. But instead of probing the allegations, the judge “was made officer on special duty and transferred to IHC, before being sent back to Punjab as he was a judicial officer on deputation”.

Last year, during routine maintenance, an IHC judge found that his official residence had been bugged with spy cameras concealed in his drawing room and bedroom.

When data from surve­illance equipment was rec­overed, it showed that “pr­i­vate videos of the judge and his family members” were stored. “The matter was brought to the attention of Chief Justice IHC. There has been no determination of who installed the equipment and who is to be held accountable…”, the letter added.

Along with their letter to the SJC, the six judges also attached copies of letters written to the IHC CJ on May 10, 2023 and Feb 12, 2024.

The letters mentioned, among other complaints, ISI officials’ efforts to pressurise IHC judges and probe into the tax records of at least one judge “to seek a certain outcome”.

They added that it was imperative to determine whether there was a “policy on the part of the executive … implemented by intelligence operatives” to intimidate judges.

The six judges also supported the demand of the former IHC judge, Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui, for a probe into the allegations of interference by ISI operatives.

“[The] allegations of interference by operatives of ISI have been dealt with and relief has been granted to a former judge of IHC who was wronged. We believe that while such action was necessary, it may not be sufficient,” the letter added.

No guidance from SC

The judges noted that the SJC’s code of conduct for judges doesn’t outline the response to such incidents “that are tantamount to intimidation and interfere with judicial independence”.

The judges requested a judicial convention to discuss the interference of intelligence officials “that undermines independence of the judiciary”.

The consultation would help the Supreme Court to determine a course of action that judges could take “when they find themselves at the receiving end”.

Published in Dawn, March 27th, 2024

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