CITY NOTES: A Daniel comes to judgment?

In yet another conspiracy against Imran Khan by Mian Nawaz Sharif, there has been an audiotape released of the former Chief Justice of Pakistan, Mr Justice (retd) Saqib Nisar, supposedly telling someone else that it had been decided to ensure that Nawaz and his daughter Mariam went to jail.

This is after he was calumniated by a former Chief Judge of Gilgit-Baltistan. Then comes the decision of the Islamabad High Court that Maryam Nawaz was not guilty of contempt for what she said about him. I couldn’t help but compare this refusal to consider Mr Justice (retd) Saqib Nisar’s honour as that of the whole institution, with the protection given by his institution to Gen (retd) Pervez Musharraf.

He was in fact allowed to escape abroad. Instead, Mr Justice Athat Minallah observed that Mr Justice (retd) Nisar was an ordinary citizen. Still, he does have the right to defend himself by suing Maryam, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and whoever said things about him which reflects on him. Such conflicts put us newspapermen in a pickle. If we take the high road, and refuse to report the libelous matter, we are guilty of dishonesty to our readers. If we do report, we lay ourselves open to a libel action, as well as a charge of criminal defamation. Readers won’t know the risk we’re running.

The big difference between a contempt notice and a libel suit is that the suit has to be tried, and there’s the possibility of successfully defending yourself. A contempt notice (for bringing the court into disrepute) means you have been convicted, and now it only remains for the judge to pronounce sentence. You might defend yourself, and try to convince the judge that he’s got it wrong, and you’re actually an upright citizen who spends his spare time preaching respect for the judiciary. Good luck with that.

Perhaps, the weirdest thing about contempt proceedings is that judges take notice of contempt shown to them personally, thereby acting as ‘judges in their own cause’. That seems to violate the legal maxim ‘no one shall be judge in his own cause.’ Well, there are always exceptions that prove the rule.

We’re all aware of how Nawaz Sharif faked the tape, and how he personally held a gun to the head of The Gilgit-Baltistan ex-chief judge while he wrote his affidavit. Actually, both Imran and those on the same page with him know nothing about the whole matter. If one was to assume that the tape was genuine, who had it? And who released it? Does anyone remember that the lawyers’ movement demanded an end to tapping phones?

And it might be noted that those doing the releasing are careful not to release any tapes of those behind the judges. Now that would be a turn up for the books. The great takeaway from all of this is that it’s not just politicians who need to develop familiarity with modern means of recording, like audio and video tapes, but anyone who rises to any senior office. And they must learn never to relax, because you never know when you are being recorded.

Recording is one problem, texting, or rather sexting, is another. Australian skipper Time Paine had to resign over a sexting scandal he was engaged in once. Imran Khan could have told him such things could be lived down. Or is a Test captain held to a higher standard than party leaders, or even PMs? Remember why Ayesha Gulalai resigned from the PTI? Is Tim Paine trying to build up a portfolio for PM?

He has not won a World Cup, though. But if he builds a hospital of any kind, then he’s making a bid. And if he ever gets onto a third wife, be sure. True, he’s a keeper. Not a fast bowler but I’m sure he’d be willing to take on the job, if the Australian Secret Intelligence Service or the Australian Secret Intelligence Organisation tell him to do his patriotic duty.

You win some, you lose some. Just as Imran was ruing the dismissal of Tim Paine, he must have viewed with suspicion Shaheen Shah Afridi’s wickets against Bangladesh, though he probably was glad that he didn’t do enough to gain the selector’s attention.

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