The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Tuesday directed former chief justice of Gilgit-Baltistan Rana Shamim to submit his original affidavit which purportedly alleges former jurist Mian Saqib Nisar of colluding to deny bails to top PML-N leadership before general elections 2018.
IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah, who was hearing the contempt of court case against Shamim and three others over an investigative report that highlighted the alleged affidavit, warned the ex-judge that charges would be framed against him in the next hearing on December 13 if the original affidavit was not produced before the court on that date.
During the previous hearing on Nov 30, the court had directed Shamim to submit the original affidavit — which the former judge claimed was with his family in the United Kingdom — as well as his response within four days.
At the outset of today’s hearing, Justice Minallah pointed out that Shamim had distanced himself from the alleged affidavit in The News report, observing that it had raised questions about the judiciary. “Are these the journalistic standards that such reports be published?”
The report had created a narrative of leveling allegations against judges, Justice Minallah said, remarking that they could not hold press conferences to present their stance. The judges are being pressured like this, he added.
“The names of respected judges of this court were taken who were not even present in the country at that time. Why did Rana Shamim write an affidavit after three years? It must be for some purpose,” he further remarked.
“The public was given the perception that the chief justice pressured judges of this court. The timing of the story’s publication is important because [the hearing] on an appeal is underway,” Justice Minallah observed, apparently referring to Maryam Nawaz’s appeal against her conviction in the Avenfield reference.
Justice Minallah noted that Shamim said he had not given his affidavit to the media, observing that affidavits related to cases were submitted in the courts.
In the last hearing, Shamim had distanced himself from a ‘leaked’ affidavit attributed to him in the report published by The News, saying he had yet to examine it and adding that the actual affidavit was sealed and in a locker in the UK. IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah had subsequently directed him to produce the original affidavit as well as his written response.
The court had warned: “In case the original document/ affidavit, on the basis of which the news report was published, is not produced before this court on the date fixed then it would raise a presumption of its non-existence.”
Shamim, the investigative report’s author Ansar Abbasi and The News editor Aamir Ghouri as well as Attorney General Khalid Jawed Khan and Advocate General Niaz Ali Niazi were present in court today for the hearing. Editor-in-chief of Jang Group Mir Shakeel-ur-Rehman’s counsel filed an application for exemption.
In the November 10, 2021 ‘leaked’ affidavit on which Ansar Abbasi’s report was based, Shamim allegedly stated that the ex-CJP during his visit to GB made a call to an IHC judge and asked him to ensure that Nawaz and his daughter are not released on bail before July 25, 2018, general elections. The alleged affidavit was published as part of an investigative report by The News International.
Justice Minallah had subsequently taken notice of the report and later issued show-cause notices to Abbasi, Rehman, Ghouri as well as Shamim under the Contempt of Court Ordinance.
Abbasi, Rehman, and Ghouri had already submitted their responses to the court prior to the hearing last week but Shamim had not.
Shamim distances himself from affidavit
During the last hearing on Nov 30, when the court asked Shamim about the authenticity of the affidavit published in the newspaper, he replied that he neither read the news item nor remembered the contents of the affidavit since after signing it, he kept the same in a locker with his family residing in the UK.
Attorney General Khalid Jawed Khan quipped that Shamim remembered each and every detail of ex-CJP Saqib Nisar’s visit to GB in 2018 but forgot what he had stated on oath on Nov 10.
In reply to the court’s queries, Shamim said his response was obtained by The News International after publication of the news report. He stated he had not provided any document’s copy, as the document executed by him was sealed and kept in a locker in the UK.
According to Shamim, the key of the locker was in possession of his grandson.
The court then directed the ex-chief judge to submit his written reply within four days along with the original document/affidavit that he claimed was sealed and kept in a locker in the UK.
The attorney general was directed to coordinate with Shamim to facilitate delivery of the document/affidavit from the UK, while the foreign secretary and Pakistan High Commission in the UK were asked to assist the attorney general in this regard.