Mohammad Malick, prominent Pakistani journalist and head of Hum News channel, has revealed that the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) is now planning to release the videotape of former accountability judge Arshad Malik a day or two before the bail petitions of Maryam Nawaz and Nawaz Sharif’s heard by the courts.
Some analysts are of the view that the PML-N’s planning to release the video before the court begins hearing the case will be tantamount to influencing the court. It is quite interesting to note PML-N is not presenting the same video before any court of law as evidence that raises several legal questions. Is the video genuine? Was that privileged discussion between a judge and his friend used for political purposes?
Notably, Nawaz was handed 7 years in jail in Al-Azizia reference by Judge Arshad Malik. Nawaz was also fined Rs1.5 billion, US $25 million. The judge, Arshad Malik, however, maintained that there was no case against Nawaz in Flagship reference. Nawaz later obtained bail from Islamabad High Court in Avenfield case where he was convicted by Judge Mohammad Bashir.
Judge Arshad Malik’s video
On July 6, 2019, Maryam Nawaz held a press conference and leaked the video of the judge where Malik was claiming that he was coerced to hand down the prison sentence against Nawaz Sharif despite there being no proof of corruption against the deposed premier.
Whether the video was being recorded to facilitate Nawaz Sharif or Nasir Butt had trapped Judge Arshad Malik exploiting his earlier friendship with him is not clear as yet. The video was not presented in any court of law to determine its authenticity – though most legal experts had opined that a forensic analysis will be needed to judge its true authenticity.
Who appointed Judge Malik?
Malik had joined the district judiciary on August 1, 2000, and was promoted to the post of a sessions judge on September 8, 2010, when Nawaz’s brother, Shahbaz Sharif was Chief Minister of Punjab. He was due to retire on May 24, 2022. In 2017 he was serving as District and Sessions Judge in Rawalpindi. It’s not clear when exactly was he transferred as Accountability Judge and why was he specifically chosen – questions that assume great importance because of the subsequent controversy his conduct created and the political implications of his conduct.
However, this much is known that transfer of Judge Arshad Malik as Accountability Judge took place more or less in the days when Nawaz’s lawyer, Khwaja Harris objected to Mohmmad Bashir and forced him to recuse from further hearing the Al Azizia case. Judge Mohammad Bashir had been simultaneously hearing all the three references field against Nawaz Sharif (Avon-field, Al Azizia and Flagship Investments). He had only given the first decision in Avenfield case on July 6, 2018 – before the 25 July National Elections – when Nawaz’s lawyers forced him out from the other two cases. In this way, the new judge, Arshad Malik only conducted the last few hearings before making his mind to convict Nawaz in one case and exonerate him in the other. Arshad Malik was never the trial judge who heard most of the cases.
Special Assistant to the PM on Accountability Shahzad Akbar has pointed out that Malik was appointed by former premier and PML-N Senior Vice President Shahid Khaqan Abbasi.
Akbar went on to claim that Al Azizia case was transferred to the court of judge Arshad Malik at the plea of Nawaz Sharif. He said that another co-accused in the case Nasir Butt was an old acquaintance of Judge Arshad Malik. Recalling ‘Justice Qayyum saga’, he said the Sharif family has done similar acts in the past as well.
Later on, after the appearance of the video, the LHC dismissed the controversial, judge Arshad Malik from his post. The decision was taken by the administration committee of the LHC. The meeting was chaired by LHC CJ and attended by seven other senior judges.