ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Tuesday berated Jang group Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Mir Shakil ur-Rehman and its reporter Ansar Abbasi over an “irresponsible” report which the bench said concerned, and tarnished, the repute of the courts.
Citing an affidavit filed by a former chief judge of the Gilgit-Baltistan Supreme Appellate Court (SAC) in London, the report published in The News on Monday said former chief justice Saqib Nisar did not want deposed prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his daughter Maryam Nawaz to be released on bail ahead of the general elections in July 2018 that a chaotic Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) lost.
The two were convicted in a National Accountability Bureau (NAB) reference related to their ownership of four multi-million-dollar London apartments weeks before the elections on July 25. When their counsels moved the IHC for suspension of the conviction, the case was adjourned until the last week of July.
Rana Muhammad Shamim, who submitted the document, claimed that Nisar directed Justice Aamer Farooq, part of the IHC bench hearing the reference against Sharifs, to ensure the father-daughter duo remains behind bars until the elections.
Today, IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah questioned the Jang group team, which included The News editor Aamir Ghouri, whether a paper’s editorial policy allowed it to publish a story, which cited an affidavit that was filed in London, on its front page.
“This affidavit is not a part of any court record. Where was this notarised,” Justice Minallah asked, observing it concerned the credibility of the courts.
Recalling that noted barristers were part of the case against the PML-N leadership, the judge asked if the journalist “ask[ed] them if they had requested for a date before the elections [of 2018]?”
He said Khawaja Haris Ahmed was the lead petitioner for the Sharif family at the time. “Did you check with him about the bench hearing the case?”
Justice Minallah said “scandals” were being perpetuated to ruin public trust in the institutions.
“If another judge spoke like this in front of me [like Nisar allegedly did in front of Shamim], I would contact the Supreme Judicial Council,” he said, alluding to the apex body governing the judiciary.
The judge further observed that Shamim stayed silent for over three years and then “suddenly an affidavit concerning the incident” surfaced. “How can a newspaper publish such a document [without due investigation]?” he wondered.
The Jang team had arrived in response to Monday’s notices under the Contempt of Court Ordinance served on them by Justice Minallah who took notice of the news story and ordered the respondents to appear in person Tuesday.
However, Shamim couldn’t appear, and his son said the retired judge had reached Islamabad late on Monday and was feeling jet-lagged.
The court subsequently issued show-cause notices to Abbasi, Shamim and two others and adjourned the hearing until November 26.
AVENFIELD CASE JUDGEMENT:
In July 2018, an accountability court ruled that Mr Sharif and his family laundered money in the 1990s to pay for four luxury apartments in Park Lane, central London, drawing on allegations that resurfaced in the 2016 Panama Papers.
Accountability Court judge Mohammad Bashir sentenced Ms Nawaz to seven years’ imprisonment, fined the family £10m and ordered the seizure of the Avenfield properties. She also received an additional one-year sentence for presenting forged documents in court.
The family has long struggled to explain how the Avenfield flats came into their possession. Family members initially told different stories. During the National Accountability Bureau trial, Mr Sharif’s defence claimed that a Qatar investment fund gave the expensive properties to the family to repay a debt owed to Mr Sharif’s father, Mian Muhammad Sharif.
Commentators in 2017 mocked a letter from a Qatar prince apparently testifying to that deal as a rabbit pulled out of a hat.
Mr Sharif and members of his family have denied any wrongdoing, and supporters claim the charges against them are politically motivated.
Source: Pakistan Today