‘Have courage and tell the public who pressured you,’ Maryam tells ex-CJP Nisar

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ISLAMABAD: PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz on Wednesday called upon former chief justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar to “have courage” and share with the public who had allegedly pressured him to convict her and PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif, days after an alleged audio of the former top judge was leaked.

Addressing a press conference in Islamabad with other senior PML-N leaders, Maryam said the latest allegation regarding judicial interference was the “fifth testimony” in favour of Nawaz, and reiterated that the PML-N supremo was ousted from power unfairly.

Her remarks come three days after the emergence of an audio clip, purportedly of a conversation between Nisar and an unidentified man regarding Nawaz and Maryam’s trial.

In the audio clip, a voice, allegedly of the former chief justice, can be heard saying: “Let me be a little blunt about it. Unfortunately, here it is the institutions that dictate judgements. In this case, we will have to punish Mian sahab (Nawaz Sharif). [I] have been told ‘we have to bring Khan sahab (Imran Khan) [into power].'”

Nisar has denied that the voice in the clip is his, terming the audio “fabricated”.

In her presser today, Maryam said “propaganda” had been started against the “renowned” US company that carried out the forensic of the audio clip and reportedly stated that it had not been edited or tampered with.

Attempts were being made to raise objections on the clip’s authenticity, Maryam said, adding that certain channels were doing the “propaganda” that the clip had been made by compiling Nisar’s words uttered on different occasions, but questioned in which speech the judge had said the most incriminating lines of the alleged audio leak: that Maryam and Nawaz were convicted and sentenced on the instructions of “institutions”.

She asked those channels why they had not focused on the above lines or tried to prove that they had not been uttered by Nisar.

“Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui also made a startling statement, while [former accountability judge] Arshad Malik was punished for speaking the truth,” Maryam said, adding that although the two judges had been removed, “nobody dared to come forward to provide justice to Nawaz Sharif.”

Justice Siddiqui in 2018 had claimed that personnel of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) were manipulating judicial proceedings, particularly the ones involving Nawaz and Maryam.

In July 2019, Maryam had presented recorded video clips of judge Malik in which she claimed the judge admitted to convicting Nawaz unjustly due to “immense pressure”.

The judge, who passed away in 2020, had denied the allegations at the time, saying there was no pressure on him to convict Nawaz and that the videos shown by Maryam were “fake and based on lies”.

Maryam today said while doubts could be raised about the latest audio clip, Justice Siddiqui and Justice Rana Shamim, who has recently issued an affidavit accusing Nisar of judicial interference, were alive. “You can call them to get their attestations,” she added.

“I want to tell Saqib Nisar that he will have to tell the nation the truth. Who forced you to convict Nawaz Sharif and Maryam Nawaz? Who asked you to bring Imran Khan [into power]?” she said while addressing the former chief justice.

“If Nawaz didn’t deserve the punishment, then why did you play with the justice system? You were sitting in the highest forum and why could you not refuse orders to convict Nawaz Sharif?”

She also asked Nisar why he allowed himself to be “forced to take an unconstitutional and illegal [step]”.

“You (Nisar) will have to give its answer to the people. Leave the audio, leave [the former top] Gilgit-Baltistan judge’s affidavit, and the statements of former judges and FIA’s Bashir Memon. This is the fifth testimony in favour of Nawaz Sharif. Will the nation forget these testimonies? Can you deny that an elected prime minister (Nawaz Sharif) was removed from power unjustly?”

Maryam alleged that Nawaz had been expelled from his office “for not taking a salary from his son” and a joint investigation team (JIT) had been formed to investigate the Sharif family’s assets. But referring to an investigation that recently exposed the offshore holdings of a number of prominent government members, she questioned: “Where was the JIT when Pandora Papers surfaced?”

She continued: “There are no proofs against me and I was [sentenced to prison] for seven years. Now NAB has no evidence to furnish in the IHC (Islamabad High Court).”

She said it was “ridiculous” that Nisar was not saying anything in his defence, while government ministers were defending the ex-CJP “haphazardly”.

“[Prime Minister] Imran Khan never called a meeting to discuss inflation, but after the audio leak he called a meeting asking his party men to discuss the PML-N tenure in public,” she alleged, saying the ministers and the premier were actually saving themselves “because they know they will suffer badly once Saqib Nisar is proved guilty”.

Maryam said after the ex-GB chief judge issued an affidavit, Nisar should have done the same.

“The incidents of the last five years are the biggest charge sheet against [Nisar],” she told the presser. “The audio tape, affidavit, Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui, Arshad Malik, and Bashir Memon are all making the same point.”

“I want Saqib Nisar to get a forensic audit conducted, face the law and build a dam from the money he gets after winning the case,” she said, calling upon the judiciary “not to bear the burden of someone whose truth is now out”.

Stressing politicians’ responsibility to protect the prestige of the judiciary, the PML-N leader stated: “Judiciary is bigger than these individuals. We don’t want to take matters beyond a certain point [and] the judiciary should clear its name itself.”

She then quoted former chief justice Asif Saeed Khosa as writing in the Panama Papers case judgement that “Behind every great fortune, there is a crime,” and said: “The crime and conspiracy that took place before the 2018 elections also stand exposed before everyone now.”

Avenfield hearing

Earlier in the day, a division bench of the Islamabad High Court, comprising Justice Aamer Farooq and Justice Mohsin Akhtar Kay­ani, resumed hearing on the appeals filed by Maryam and her husband retired Capt Mohammad Safdar against their convictions in the Avenfield reference.

The court accepted the request filed by Maryam’s counsel, Advocate Irfan Qadir, to adjourn the hearing without any proceedings because of him being occupied with another case.

Justice Farooq proposed that the next hearing could be scheduled for December 15, but Safdar informed the court that their son Junaid was getting married on Dec 17.

The court subsequently adjourned the hearing on the appeals till Dec 21.

On Tuesday, Advocate Qadir, who was engaged by Maryam last month, filed an application before the IHC seeking hearing on any other date except Nov 24 as he was supposed to appear before the Supreme Court.

It is a routine practice that when a lawyer is supposed to appear before the Supreme Court, he seeks adjournment in cases fixed for hearing before the high courts or trial courts on the same date.

However, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry blamed Maryam for seeking 16 adjournments since August 2018 when she filed an appeal before the IHC against her conviction in the Avenfield apartments reference.

“16th application to seek adjournment from Maryam Nawaz, and organised propaganda against judiciary and armed forces, hence these people are not less than Sicilian Mafia,” the minister tweeted.

The government has been accusing the PML-N of launching a campaign against the judiciary after the former chief judge of Gilgit-Baltistan, Rana Shamim, in an affidavit accused ex-CJP Nisar of issuing instructions to delay the release of Nawaz and Maryam till the conclusion of the 2018 general elections.

The government was also critical of the leaked audio of Justice Nisar in which he was allegedly discussing the conviction of the PML-N leaders.

A few days before the elections in 2018, the accountability judge of Islamabad, who was working under the supervision of an apex court judge, convicted the Sharif family in the Avenfield apartment reference on July 6.

The Sharif family filed appeals against its conviction before the IHC in the second week of August 2018.