The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Friday ordered the Attorney General of Pakistan (AGP) Khalid Jawed Khan and the Pakistan Bar Council (PBC) to submit the names of international forensic agencies certified to carry out forensic analysis. of an alleged audio tape of former Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Saqib Nisar.
IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah issued the instructions while hearing arguments on the maintainability of a petition calling for the formation of an independent commission to verify the authenticity of the alleged Nisar audio tape and investigate on certain events before and after the sentencing of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
The petition was filed jointly by Salahuddin Ahmed, Chairman of Sindh High Court Bar Association (SHCBA), and Syed Haider Imam Rizvi, Member of the Judiciary Commission (Sindh).
In the leaked audio clip, an unidentified individual, allegedly Nisar, can be heard colluding to punish former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his daughter Maryam Nawaz in order to bring their political rival Imran Khan to power. The former top judge called the audio “fabricated”.
Judge Minallah said during the hearing that it was not even known if there was an original audio tape and if it was authentic. “No Court of Auditors is under the administrative control of this high court. What matter related to this high court are you requesting an investigation into?” he asked.
The judge observed that all the cases were related to a pending appeal, referring to Maryam Nawaz’s appeal against her conviction in the Avenfield reference. Judge Minallah asked what would be the effect on this pending appeal if the court decided to order an investigation.
“It seems that those whose appeals are pending do not want to take these cases to court. [If] this court orders an investigation, then it will have an effect on all the pending cases,” the judge remarked.
Justice Minallah observed that an allegation was being made that someone else “decided on the constitution of the benches of the High Court” and questioned whether there was even a shred of evidence available for this claim. .
“Cases cannot be decided for political reasons. You are the head of the bar [so] bring any evidence,” the judge told Ahmed, noting that the investigation should be directed against the judges of the relevant bench.
The SHCBA president replied that in the leaked audio tape, it was unclear to whom Nisar allegedly spoke and whether the other person was even a judge or not.
Judge Minallah replied that a prima facie case should be established and asked again for evidence to be provided.
“If there is no evidence, it is an attempt to erode public confidence in the court. [If you] bring the evidence, then this court doesn’t hesitate to make a commission,” the chief justice said.
He again asked the petitioners to provide any evidence that someone else had decided on the formation of the IHC benches, questioning whether a judge’s decision or conduct had given that impression.
The IHC Chief Justice also questioned who would bear the cost of any forensic analysis. Ahmed suggested the Justice Department could do this, prompting the Chief Justice to ask, “Why should taxpayers’ money be spent on this?”
He called on the president of the SHCBA to suggest the name of any verified forensic agency to investigate the audio clip, but the latter declined to do so, explaining that the AGP had referred to him as an “attorney” during the hearing. a previous hearing.
Subsequently, Judge Minallah ordered the AGP and the PBC to submit the names of verified international forensic firms. He also ordered that a copy of the audio tape be provided to the applicants.
The hearing was adjourned to January 28.
Decision reserved on Rana Shamim’s request
Earlier in the day, the IHC reserved its verdict on the admissibility of a request by former Chief Justice of Gilgit-Baltistan Rana Shamim for the formation of a commission of inquiry to investigate interference in the court cases.
Shamim’s lawyer, Ahmad Hassan Rana, argued that allegations about former CJP Nisar were made in the former judge’s affidavit. In addition, former IHC judge Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui had also delivered a speech before the Rawalpindi Bar, he added, referring to the latter’s speech in 2018 in which he made remarks on the involvement of certain officers of the executive body of the State, in particular the Inter-Services Intelligence, in justice affairs to allegedly manipulate the formation of the benches of the High Court.
Judge Minallah asked the attorney which bench he suspected was formed by someone else, adding that the people named in the affidavit were not part of the bench hearing the PML-supremo’s case. N Nawaz Sharif and his daughter.
“If misconduct occurred, those benches must have done it. Do you want an investigation against those benches and those judges?” questioned the IHC Chief Justice before reserving his verdict on the claim.
The Commission sought to investigate an audio leak
Ahmed’s petition called on the IHC to appoint an independent commission composed of members or retired judges of the upper judiciary, legal professionals, journalists and members of civil society to undertake “an investigation thorough” in order to verify the authenticity or not of “the audio recording supposed to be old CJP Saqib Nisar”.
The petitioners had urged the court to empower this commission to also investigate events/allegations against the judiciary before and after the Sharif family’s conviction. According to the petition, “a series of events that have taken place tend to erode the credibility, reputation and independence of the judiciary in the eyes of the people.”
The petition mentions that all the events undermined public confidence in the judiciary and damaged its reputation for independence and neutrality in the eyes of the general public, which ultimately hinders access to justice. “While various aspects of the above events are pending in various courts, the underlying question of the truth or falsity of the allegations of outside interference in judicial functions and, in particular, the audio recording of the former CJP Saqib Nisar has not yet been considered in any legal forum,” he said.