Islamabad High Court’s (IHC) Justice Babar Sattar on Friday dismissed a plea filed by the Intelligence Bureau (IB) in which it sought to withdraw its petition seeking the judge’s recusal from a case pertaining to audio leaks.

During today’s hearing, it also emerged that the IHC had dismissed the IB’s plea seeking the judge’s recusal at the last hearing on April 29.

The development came as the court heard a case in connection with the petitions filed last year by ex-premier Imran Khan’s spouse Bushra Bibi and Najam Saqib, son of former chief justice of Pakistan Saqib Nisar, against alleged audio leaks.

Last week, Pemra had requested Justice Sattar to recuse himself from hearing the case, contending that another bench that had already dealt with an identical matter may proceed on the petitions in hand.

Similar petitions had also been filed by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) and the IB.

At the previous hearing, Justice Sattar had imposed fines worth Rs500,000 each on the FIA, PTA and Pemra while dismissing their pleas seeking his recusal. He had also hinted at initiating contempt proceedings against the bodies.

The judge had summoned IB joint director Tariq Mehmood today, seeking a satisfactory response as to who had approved filing the petition objecting to him hearing the case.

A day ago, the IB filed a miscellaneous application seeking withdrawal of its objection plea.

Today, the assistant attorney general (AAG) appeared before the court on behalf of the IB.

Today’s hearing

At the outset of today’s hearing, the AAG informed the court that the IB wanted to withdraw its plea objecting to the formation of the bench.

At this, Justice Sattar replied, “Your plea on objection has already been dismissed. When the [written] order will be issued, you will receive it.

“The IB DG has been issued a notice in the order. Why not initiate contempt proceedings against him?” he added.

The judge noted that it had also been asked in the order who had approved filing the objection plea. He told the AAG that the IB’s response could be submitted to the court once the written verdict had been issued.

Justice Sattar then dismissed the IB’s fresh application seeking withdrawal of the objection plea.

Audio leaks case

In May last year, Najam Saqib had filed a petition against an inquiry of a parliamentary committee on his alleged audio in which he purportedly sought a bribe.

Justice Sattar had asked the intelligence agencies and PTA to trace the source of the audio leak while Pemra was told not to broadcast the unauthorised and leaked conversation of citizens.

In September, Bushra Bibi had challenged an FIA inquiry based on her alleged conversation with Zulfi Bukhari, a former aide to then-PM Imran, for selling Toshakhana gifts. Subsequently, the IHC had clubbed Bushra Bibi’s and Saqib’s petitions.

Responding to the IHC, the defence ministry had denied any involvement in the recording and leaking of telephone conversations between government officials and other prominent personalities.

The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) had also submitted its report on the case, saying that it “does not interfere” with the domain of intelligence agencies, “keeps an arm’s length relationship” and expects them “to work under the Constitution and law of the land in the public interest”.

In a subsequent hearing, the PTA had informed the IHC that it did not have the capacity or capability to identify the person who leaked audio recordings on social media.

In December, Bushra Bibi had filed a separate petition against a leaked audio conversation between her and her lawyer Latif Khosa, who had confirmed the authenticity of the audio. The IHC then sought reports from the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) director general, FIA, Pemra and others on the matter while ordering the PTA to conduct an inquiry.

In the next hearing, Attorney General for Pakistan (AGP) Mansoor Usman Awan informed the IHC that the government had not permitted any intelligence agency to tap audio conversations.

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