ISLAMABAD    -   Taking action in the backdrop of the video scandal, the Islamabad High Court on Friday asked the Law Ministry to relieve accountability judge Arshad Malik of his duties at the accountability court and repatriate him to his parent department - the Lahore High Court.

It also ordered attaching his affidavit with the appeals filed by former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and other accused against their convictions in the corruption references.

Also on Friday, the Supreme Court fixed July 16 for hearing a petition seeking an inquiry to determine the truth behind the controversial videos, and claims that Arshad Malik had confessed before a PML-N sympathizer about being blackmailed into convicting Nawaz in Al-Azizia reference.

A three-judge bench of the apex court headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Asif Saeed Khosa will hear the plea, filed by Ishtiaq Mirza advocate, asking the court to check the authenticity of the audios and videos presented as proof by Maryam Nawaz at a press conference.

The federal government, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) president Shehbaz Sharif, PML-N vice president Maryam Nawaz, former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, Raja Zafarul Haq and Nasir Butt have been made party in the petition.

The petitioner has also prayed to the court that steps may be taken for ensuring the independence of the judiciary including contempt of court proceedings against those found guilty of the contempt of court.

He stated that an impression has been created that the judiciary is not working independently rather it is blackmailed and forced to act on the instructions of blackmailers.

He said although Judge Arshad Malik has categorically denied the allegations, but the state institutions did not take any step to unearth the truth.

He added that the facts narrated by Judge Accountability Court in his press release regarding offering of bribe and threats of serious consequences also need a thorough probe.

Removal of judge

As for the letter of the Islamabad High Court (IHC), official sources said it was written by IHC Registrar on the directions of acting IHC Chief Justice Aamer Farooq.

The dispatch to the law ministry asked for repatriating Arshad Malik to his parent department. Malik is an official of the subordinate judiciary of the Lahore High Court (LHC).

The troubled judge Friday morning reached IHC and gave a letter along with his affidavit to the IHC Registrar.

He claimed in the letter that the videos shared by Maryam were fake and the accusations made were baseless. Moreover, he alleged that PML-N had offered him bribes ahead of the Al-Azizia verdict.

Along with the letter, Judge Malik also submitted an affidavit and a copy of the initial press release he had issued last Sunday.

Sources said Justice Farooq directed the IHC registrar to make all three documents part of Nawaz’s pending appeals against the Al-Azizia and Flagship references.

 The affidavit

In the beginning of this affidavit, Malik stated that shortly after his appointment in February 2018, as judge of AC Islamabad, he was contacted by two acquaintances, Mahar Jilani and Nasir Janjua. “During this meeting, Nasir Janjua claimed that it was on his specific and personal recommendation to an influent person in the then PML-N Government that he was appointed judge of AC Islamabad,” said the judge.

He added, “Whilst the trial of the HME Reference and Flagship Reference were underway, I was approached on a number of occasions by associates and supporters of Mian Nawaz Sharif with demands, inducements and threats to acquit Mian Nawaz Sharif and the other accused in the HME and Flagship References.”

He continued, “At around the time that the trials of the Flagship Reference and HME Reference were at the argument stage, I was again approached by Nasir Janjua and Mahar Jilani. This time, Nasir Janjua came with a financial offer quoting Mian Nawaz Sharif. I was told that Mian Sahib is willing to pay whatever I demand as long as there is acquittal verdict in both the HME and Flagship References.”

He maintained that when he responded by saying that he has contently spent 56 years of his life in a 6 Marlas’ house and would decide the two references in accordance with his oath and did not need anything.

According to the affidavit, “Nasir Janjua claimed that he had the cash equivalent of Rs100 million in Euros for me immediately available out of which the Euro equivalent of Rs20 million was laying in his car parked outside. He tried to tempt and induce me further by saying that I was a salaried person of modest means with a family and many liabilities and this was a golden opportunity to make myself financially secure for the future. However, I declined the bribe offered to me while committing remains sticking to merits.”

Mentioning a threat from the PML-N sympathizers, the judge said, “The offer for a bribe which I declined was then followed, shortly thereafter, by a thinly veiled threat of physical harm and intimidation by Nasir Butt, who I have also mentioned in my press release of 7-7-2019. The threat was delivered by Nasir Butt saying to me in an intimidating tone that he owed Mian Nawaz Sharif a lot, as he had helped him avoid punishment for 4-5 murders committed by him by using his immense political influence and therefore, he was willing to go to any extent to help Mian Sahib in the trials he was facing.”

Malik asserted that in spite of the aforementioned demands, inducements and threats, he handed down the judgments in the HME and Flagship references in the last week of December 2018, convicting Nawaz Sharif as charged in the former and acquitting him in the latter.

Then, the judge mentioned his meeting with Khurram Yousaf and Nasir Butt in middle of February 2019 wherein, he was blackmailed by them through “the Multan video”. Shortly after this, the judge was approached by his another social acquaintance Mian Tariq and his son.

“Mian Tariq showed me a secretly recorded manipulated immoral video in a compromising position saying that it is you doing this when you were serving in Multan. This came as a shock to me,” pointed the judge.

He added that after he was shown the video, Nasir Janjua and Nasir Butt started to pressurize and blackmail him to do something to help Nawaz Sharif. In this connection, he said that they again used “the Multan video” as a threat to take me to Jati Umra for a meeting with Nawaz Sharif.

“I did accompany Nasir Butt to Jati Umra probably on 6-4-2019, where Mian Nawaz Sharif personally received us. At this meeting, Nasir Butt initiated the conversation by claiming in front of Nawaz Sharif that I had admitted to Nasir Butt that the conviction was handed down under pressure of the judiciary and the army. However, when I spoke up, I politely tried to explain to Nawaz Sharif that the conviction in the HME Reference was on merits and that there was substantial evidence adduced against him by the prosecution which had gone unrebutted in defense whereas in the Flagship Reference, he was acquitted because of the absence of the required level of evidence,” said AC judge in the affidavit.

He added “Mian Nawaz Sharif was obviously displeased by my response and so the meeting ended with Mian Nawaz Sharif seeing us both off.”

Then, he mentioned the background of video screened by PML-N leadership including Maryam Nawaz in the press conference on 6-7-2019. He told that after watching the press conference, he realized that the sitting in which I had commented upon the draft memorandum of appeal of Nawaz was secretly recorded as edited and manipulated excepts of conversation from that meeting were part of the audio/ video played at the said press conference.

Then, he described his meeting with Hussain Nawaz on 1st of June in Medina saying for this meeting he was again threatened by Nasir Butt. He said that Hussain’s tone and manner was palpably aggressive and intimidating.

“He (Hussain) offered me a cash bribe of Rs500 million in addition to myself and my entire family being relocated and settled in the United Kingdom, Canada or any other country of my choice with jobs for my children and a profitable business. In return, he said that all I had to do was to formally resign on the ground that I could no longer deal with the guilt of having convicted Nawaz Sharif under duress and without evidence,” Malik stated.

The AC judge said that he this declined this offer by Hussain Nawaz. He continued that when he returned to Pakistan Nasir Butt also approached him with the same message through Khurram Yousaf but my his response to both was in the negative.

Then, he added that he stopped taking phone calls from Nasir Butt and obviously, in retaliation, the aforementioned press conference was held in which false and malicious allegations were made against him and a raft of statements were falsely attributed to him.

At the end, he reiterated his stance that the judgements in HME and Flagship references were given purely on merit and based on the available evidence without any pressure, fear and favour.