ISLAMABAD - The Islamabad High Court (IHC) Monday issued notices to Federal Minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan in a contempt of court petition filed against him for terming the release of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif a result of a ‘deal’ between the government and Sharif.

A single bench of IHC comprising Chief Justice of IHC Justice Athar Minallah conducted hearing of the petition and directed Ghulam Sarwar to appear before the court in person on Thursday.

The IHC bench noted in its order, “Keeping in view the nature of allegations made in this petition, it is treated as having been filed under the Contempt of Court Ordinance, 2003. The office is directed to issue notices to respondents No 1 to 3. The Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority and the TV channel ‘Hum’ are directed to submit recording of the programme referred to in the petition along with its transcripts before next date fixed.”

The court verdict stated that Ghulam Sarwar had made public statements whereby impression was given that medical reports submitted by the medical board constituted by the government of Punjab which also included medical specialists from institutions controlled by the federal government, were manipulated.

“A responsible member of the federal cabinet was thus allegedly suggesting that this Court was misled by false and manipulated medical reports of the officially appointed medical board,” said the bench.

Justice Athar maintained that it was alarming because when members of the federal cabinet give the impression of a purported deal then either it is intended to prejudice pending judicial proceedings or indict the government itself. “This indeed has consequences in the context of public confidence in the administration of justice.”

He continued, “It is noted that public confidence is the foundation of a strong, effective and independent judiciary. The courts do not fear criticism nor discourage it by exercising powers of contempt. But prejudicing pending proceedings and right to fair trial of an accused cannot be ignored because it tantamount to obstruction of justice and undermines public confidence in the system. It is duty of the courts to safeguard sanctity of judicial proceedings and right to a fair trial of every litigant regardless of the nature of crime.”

The court noted that it was obviously least expected from a member of the federal cabinet to make public statements which tended to, prima facie, influence pending proceedings and undermines public confidence in the administration of justice. The allegations against respondent No.1 were of serious nature because it raised serious concerns regarding medical reports of the medical board and on the basis whereof interim orders had passed by this court.

The court order said that Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister of Pakistan who was present in the court had stated that no such statement had been made by any member of the federal cabinet let alone respondent No.1. However, she sought time to place on record transcripts of the alleged assertions made by Sarwar.

In this matter, an Islamabad based lawyer Khalid Mehmood Khan moved the court and cited the federal minister and Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) as respondents.

He stated in his petition that in a talk show on a TV channel, Ghulam Sarwar was talking about the “deal” between government and leader of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and alleged that release of Nawaz and Maryam Nawaz was result of a ‘deal’ between government and the former prime minister.

He adopted that being a citizen of the country, petitioner had a basic right to know about fact whether such kind of ‘deal’ was matured between Nawaz Sharif and government, if answer was yes then it was a question mark on the independence of the institution of this country and if answer was no then why a responsible leader of Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf and federal minister tried to give such kind of irresponsible statement at the TV Channel.

Therefore, he prayed to the court to direct Sarwar to appear before this court in person and explain the facts of the ‘deal’ between Nawaz Sharif and government as well as other institutions which were included in the execution of such type of ‘deal’ and if his statement was against the facts and based upon malafide intention then he might be punished under relevant provisions of law in the best interest of justice.