Islamabad – Staff Reporter:
PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz on Wednesday called for an independent inquiry to be held into former Islamabad High Court (IHC) judge Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui’s statement in the apex court in which he said a senior intelligence officer visited him over verdicts he had issued as a high court judge.
Talking to the media outside the IHC, where she came for the hearing of an appeal against her conviction in the Avenfield properties reference, Maryam said Siddiqui’s case was “not the case of one judge”, adding that he “should not be punished for speaking the truth”.
She said the judiciary should consider the cases against Siddiqui and incumbent Supreme Court Justice Qazi Faez Isa as “an attack against it, resist external pressure and give weightage to Siddiqui’s statement”.
A day earlier, Siddiqui’s lawyer had read out his statement in the Supreme Court during the hearing of his appeal against the opinion of the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) as well as the Oct 11, 2018, notification under which he was removed as a judge of the high court for a speech he made on July 21 that year at the District Bar Association, Rawalpindi.
His counsel said that during his second visit on July 19, 2018, incumbent Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Director General, who was then DG counter-intelligence, Lt Gen Faiz Hameed, told Siddiqui that after his June 2018 verdict, he was summoned by the army chief who showed great annoyance and displeasure.
In June 2018, Justice Siddiqui of the IHC had directed the ISI to remove encroachments from a portion of Khayaban-i-Suharwardi in front of the headquarters of the spy agency in Islamabad.
In his statement to the SC, Siddiqui claimed that when he asked how they managed the constitution of a bench to hear the appeal against the conviction of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, Gen Hameed told him that the then IHC chief justice, Anwar Khan Kasi, was approached in Quetta through a common friend, where he was asked to constitute a division bench which was not headed by Justice Siddiqui. Justice Kasi, according to Siddiqui, told Gen Hameed he “will constitute a bench about which we are comfortable”.
Gen Hameed had further said that they wanted an assurance that the bail plea of accused Nawaz Sharif was not taken up before the 2018 general election, Siddiqui’s counsel said, adding that they wanted that later the matter be brought before a bench headed by Justice Siddiqui to attach some credence.
“To this, I categorically replied that if from the material, I feel convinced for enhancement of the sentence, I will not hesitate to issue notice for enhancement to the conviction, but if the judgement would not be sustainable in the eyes of law, I will not spoil my hereafter to protect worldly affairs of any,” his lawyer quoted Siddiqui as saying.
Speaking to the media today, Maryam termed Siddiqui’s statement a “very big testimony”. The PML-N leader said the “[Supreme Court] must realise that judges are pressured to make [certain] decisions and those decisions tarnish their images.”
“I want to say that he [Siddiqui] should not be punished for speaking the truth. Otherwise, all judges intending to serve justice, follow the law and make independent decisions will be facing trial.
“Judges and Supreme Judicial Council should consider [Siddiqui’s] case as their own and judiciary’s case and end external pressures and dictating of decisions,” she stressed.
In response to a question, Maryam denied there were rifts in the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), saying that all parties in the alliance had the same stance as Nawaz Sharif.
When asked about reports of US-Pakistan talks on military bases, Maryam alleged that such a decision could not be made through “secret negotiations” and the government had not yet denied the reports.
She said she would oppose hosting of US bases by Pakistan. “If you have made a deal for whatever reason — to save your government or compromised the country’s sovereignty — tell parliament about your blunder. The nation has the right to know what deal the government has made to save themselves,” she said.
Hearing of appeal
Earlier, a two-judge bench, comprising Justices Aamer Farooq and Justice Mohsin Akhtar Kayani, heard the appeals of Nawaz, Maryam, and her husband, retired Capt Safdar Awan, against their convictions in the Avenfield properties reference.
During the hearing, Justice Farooq said it was necessary to determine whether the court could hear the case on its merits.
Nawaz’s counsel, Azam Nazir Tarar, argued that the case could be heard by the court if the documents were available. He requested the court to see “Azam Nazir Tarar, Amjad Pervez (counsel for Maryam and Safdar) and Nawaz Sharif in the same way”, adding that according to the spirit of the Constitution and the law, the court could “take a decision that opens a clear window”.
“I will talk [without considering] my political affiliation. If the case against Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was against someone else, it would not be remembered today. Political cases are mentioned not only in the books of law but in political history as well,” Tarar said.
“Examples are present where the high courts heard appeals in the absence [of the appellant] but then the Supreme Court declared it invalid. Both sides tried to convince the court. The Supreme Court has asked the Islamabad High Court to announce the judgement,” he added.
Tarar, who had in an earlier hearing suggested the court either adjourn the hearing till the return of ailing Nawaz from the UK or dismiss the appeal for non-prosecution, said the trial court’s decision would be maintained if the high court stayed the appeal at this stage.
“The trial was held in his (Nawaz’s) presence so the appeal should also be heard in his presence. If a decision is announced now and is overturned later, what will happen then?” he questioned.
“If the court does not listen to this appeal or dismisses it now, it will neither benefit nor harm someone.”
Tarar asked the court to decide the matter according to the law, saying we have to “take care of fundamental rights”.
He contended that the Supreme Court had given relief in many similar cases.
Justice Farooq said there were two other appeals — of Maryam and Safdar — in front of the court, asking what would be done about them. “Can we hear them on merit?” he questioned Tarar.
Tarar replied that the court could decide on the other two appeals but “there should be a way to facilitate the convict (Nawaz).”
He said all three convicts had recorded their statements under Section 342 of the criminal procedure code in which generally the accused rebuts the allegations and evidence submitted by the prosecution against him, adding that their lawyers had also presented their arguments.
“The Supreme Court made it clear in the Ikramullah case that a judgement will only be announced if the [concerned person] is present,” he argued.
Justice Farooq questioned what would happen if the court announced its verdict only on the appeals of Maryam and Safdar to which Tarar replied that Nawaz could file a separate petition after coming back to Pakistan.
“If the court wants, it can also adjourn [hearings] on Maryam and Safdar’s appeals,” Tarar added.
Justice Farooq said the appeals of two convicts could not be adjourned because of the absence of one. “The judiciary should do what it takes to ensure that judges do not make wrong decisions,” he remarked.
The hearing was adjourned till June 23.