Former chief justice of Pakistan dismisses allegations, claiming he has no need to issue any public statement on the situation
The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Monday issued a summons to former Gilgit-Baltistan chief justice Rana Shamim over allegations against ex-Chief Justice of Pakistan Saqib Nisar related to cases against Nawaz Sharif and Maryam Nawaz.
In an urgent hearing, IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah issued contempt summons to Shamim, journalist Ansar Abbasi—who reported on the allegations—and the editor and editor-in-chief of daily The News, which published the investigative report. During proceedings, Justice Minallah said the court would treat this matter very seriously, adding that it had appeared to “influence” ongoing proceedings. He claimed the issue was being used to “shake” people’s confidence in the judiciary.
On Monday, daily The News published a report by journalist Abbasi that claimed that Nisar, as CJP, had directed a high court judge to ensure Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) leaders Nawaz Sharif and Maryam Nawaz were not released on bail before the 2018 general elections. “Muhammad Nawaz Sharif and Maryam Nawaz Sharif must remain in jail until the general elections are over. On assurances from the other side, he [Nisar] became calm and happily demanded another cup of tea,” it quoted an affidavit by Shamim as saying of a meeting he had with the former chief justice of Pakistan.
The affidavit cited by The News has been notarized by Charles D. Guthrie, a London-based solicitor that the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf has sought to link to the PMLN. Minister of State for Information Farrukh Habib, in a posting on Twitter, said that Guthrie had also notarized the medical reports provided by Nawaz Sharif to justify extending his stay in the U.K. He also notarized the forensic report of a video of the late Judge Arshad Malik in which he was recorded as saying that he had been blackmailed to convict Nawaz Sharif.
Both Nawaz and Maryam were convicted by an accountability court in a graft case before the 2018 general elections on July 6, 2018. Their legal counsel sought a suspension of the verdict but the case was postponed till after the polls following initial hearings. The PMLN has long alleged that its leaders were made part of a “political witch-hunt” to dent its standing in the polls.
Speaking to media, former chief justice Saqib Nisar denied that he had ever directed any subordinate judges to delay or alter their judicial order—regardless of who it pertained to. Claiming that the report published by Abbasi “contradicts the facts,” he said he would not stoop to the level of Shamim and respond to his “lies.”
He also accused Shamim of seeking an extension to his tenure as the chief justice of Gilgit-Baltistan from Nisar, adding that he had denied the request.
However, Shamim has maintained that his affidavit is accurate and refused to retract his allegations. He told private broadcaster Geo News that Nisar had no authority to extend his tenure as chief justice—as the Supreme Courts of Gilgit-Baltistan and Pakistan-administered Kashmir are not subordinate to the Supreme Court of Pakistan—and he would have no reason to ask him for the same.
Narrating the events that led to his conversation with the former chief justice of Pakistan, he said that Nisar had been a guest of his in Gilgit in 2018. In his affidavit, he claimed that he had overheard Nisar speaking to the Supreme Court registrar on the phone, asking him to get in touch with a high court judge. He claimed that Nisar had told the judge to keep Nawaz and Maryam in jail until elections were over, adding that after this he had “become calm.”
Vindication for PMLN?
In a press conference, PMLN leader Shahid Khaqan Abbasi confirmed that Shamim had recorded his statement before an oath commissioner in London. He noted that Nawaz had been removed from politics after being disqualified as prime minister in 2017. “Three people, including Rana Shamin and Saqib Nisar, are aware of the facts, but the people of Pakistan should also know the truth. If someone meddles with elections, so don’t we hold the right to question them?” he said.
Stressing that he “prayed” Nisar had not been involved in ensuring Nawaz and Maryam remained in prison, he said the former chief justice had often exceeded his mandate by visiting hospitals and seeking to collect donations for dams, so it was not inappropriate to consider Shamim’s statement.
The government, however, has accused the PMLN of trying to manipulate the judiciary to reverse the conviction of Nawaz and Maryam. Special Assistant to the P.M. for Political Communication Shahbaz Gill, in a posting on Twitter, claimed the development was linked to an upcoming appeal hearing against Maryam’s conviction in the Avenfield reference.
Separately, in a meeting with members of his cabinet, Prime Minister Imran Khan alleged the PMLN was merely attacking and influencing the judiciary to evade cases against its leaders.