IHC asks PBC, AGP for names of international forensic agencies to analyze alleged audio of Saqib Nisar

The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Friday gave directive to the Pakistan Bar Council (PBC), and the Attorney General of Pakistan (AGP) Khalid Jawed Khan to submit names of certified international forensic agencies to conduct a forensic analysis of an alleged audiotape of former chief justice of Pakistan (CJP) Saqib Nisar.

While hearing arguments on the maintainability of a petition seeking the formation of an independent commission to ascertain the authenticity of Nisar’s alleged audiotape and probe certain events be­fore and after former PM Nawaz Sharif’s conviction, IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah issued the directive to analyze the audio tape.

The petition has been jointly filed by Syed Haider Imam Rizvi, a member of the Judicial Commission (Sindh) and Salahuddin Ahmed, president of the Sindh High Court Bar Association (SHCBA).

It is pertinent to note that in the leaked audio clip, an unidentified individual, allegedly Saqib Nisar, can be heard speaking of collusion to punish former PM Nawaz Sharif and his daughter Maryam Nawaz in order to bring their political rival Imran Khan into power.

However, Nisar had termed the audio as “fabricated”, soon after it surfaced.

He went on to observe that all the matters were related to a pending appeal, referring to Maryam Nawaz’s appeal against her conviction in the Avenfield reference. Justice Minallah questioned what the effect would be on that pending appeal if the court decided to order an inquiry.

Justice Minallah further stated that the allegation was being levelled that someone else “decided the constitution of the high court’s benches” and questioned whether there was even the slightest evidence available for the claim.

“Cases cannot be decided on political grounds. You are the leader of the bar [so] bring even the slightest evidence,” the judge said to Ahmed, noting that the inquiry would have to be against the judges in the relevant bench.

As a response, the SHCBA president stated that in the leaked audiotape, it was not known who Nisar was allegedly talking to and whether the other person was even a judge or not.

To which, Justice Minallah replied that a prima facie case would have to be made out and asked again for any evidence to be brought.

“If there is no evidence then this is an attempt to erode public confidence in the court. [If you] bring the evidence then this court has no hesitation in making a commission,” the chief justice stated.

He again asked the petitioners to bring forth any evidence that somebody else decided the formation of IHC benches, questioning whether any judge’s decision or conduct had given that impression.

The IHC chief justice called on the SHCBA president 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 called him a “proxy” in a previous court hearing.

He went on to question who would bear the cost of any forensic analysis. Ahmed suggested the law ministry could do so, prompting the chief justice to ask: “Why should money of taxpayers be spent on it?”

Justice Minallah then gave directive to the AGP and PBC to submit names of verified international forensic firms, while directing that a copy of the audiotape must be provided to the petitioners.

The hearing has been adjourned till January 28.

Earlier in the day, the IHC reserved its verdict on the admissibility of a request by former Gilgit-Baltistan chief justice Rana Shamim for the formation of an inquiry commission to investigate interference in judicial matters.

Shamim’s lawyer Ahmad Hassan Rana argued that allegations regarding former CJP Nisar were made in ex judge’s affidavit.

Justice Minallah asked the counsel which bench he suspected of being formed by someone else, adding that those named in the affidavit were not a part of the bench that was hearing the case of PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif and his daughter.

“If any misconduct has happened then those benches must have done it. Do you want an inquiry against those benches and judges?” the IHC chief justice questioned before reserving his verdict on the request.

The 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 had made remarks about the involvement of certain officers of the executive organ of the state, specifically the Inter-Services Intelligence, in the affairs of the judiciary to allegedly manipulate the formation of benches of the high court.

It is pertinent to note that Ahmed’s petition had requested the IHC to ap­point an independent commission co­m­prising members or retired jud­ges of the superior judiciary, legal professionals, journalists and civil society members to undertake “a comprehensive inquiry” to ascertain authenticity or otherwise of the “audio recording purported to be of former CJP Saqib Nisar”.

The petition mentioned 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 impinge access to justice. “While various aspects of the aforementioned events are sub-judice before various courts, the underlying question of the truth or falsity of the allegations of outside interference with judicial functions and, in particular, the audio recording of former CJP Saqib Nisar is yet to be considered at any judicial forum,” it stated.

The petitioners had urged the court to empower that commission to also probe the events/allegations hurled at the judiciary prior to and after the conviction of the Sharif family. According to the petition, “series of events that have taken place tend to erode the credibility, reputation and independence of the judiciary in the eyes of the people.”.



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