ISLAMABAD: Former Chief Justice of Pakistan Saqib Nisar has categorically distanced himself from some of the most talked about controversies that raged during his tenure as the top judge, saying he did not play a part in either of them.
The News contacted the retired judge to establish his role, if any, in the cause celebres involving former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, the way investigation apparatus was raised to probe corruption allegations following the publication of Panama Papers and if the accountability judge who sentenced Nawaz Sharif was pressurised by the CJP himself.
It had been reported that an unknown caller contacted top bosses of the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) and the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) via WhatsApp messaging application to avoid detection and introduced himself as the registrar of the Supreme Court of Pakistan. He asked for the inclusion of specific names in the panel that was to be forwarded to the Supreme Court for the Panama Joint Investigation Team (JIT). The retired judge said he had no connection with the setting up of Panama JIT that became controversial after the publication of a story in this newspaper.
Stressing that he never asked the registrar about the WhatsApp call, the former CJP said, the issue actually pertained to the Implementation Bench (of the Panama case). “I don’t know why the registrar did it,” he said.
The former CJP was also asked about the controversy surrounding ex-Accountability Court judge Arshad Malik who has alleged in a video/audio statement available with the Sharif family that he was pressured by the former chief justice and another judge of the apex court to sentence Nawaz Sharif for 14 years.
Nisar said he had never met judge Arshad Malik in his entire life. “I never met him nor called him to my chamber to [ask him to] punish Nawaz Sharif for 14 years.”
The Arshad Malik controversy erupted last year when in a press conference Nawaz Sharif’s daughter Maryam Nawaz had played a secretly recorded video that she claimed featured a conversation between Nasir Butt, a man she described as a loyal fan of her father, and Judge Malik, who had in December 2018 sentenced Nawaz to seven years in prison in the Al-Azizia Steel Mills corruption reference and acquitted him in the Flagship Investment case.
Maryam had alleged that the judge had contacted Nasir Butt and told him that he was feeling the “guilt” and “having nightmares” after announcing the “unjust” verdict against Nawaz, so he invited Nasir for a meeting at his residence where the video was recorded. The judge acknowledged in the video, played before the media, that he had been “blackmailed” and “pressured” into issuing a judgement against the PML-N supremo.
On May 30, 2017, The News broke the story –‘Tale of the WhatsApp caller and the Panama JIT’ — revealing that names of Amer Aziz and Bilal Rasool were given to SBP and SECP respectively for inclusion in the organizations’ panel for the Panama JIT. The caller had also mentioned the name of Irfan Naeem Mangi from NAB.
It was reported by this newspaper that these WhatsApp calls were made when the Supreme Court had sought two additional names from each of these organisations after not having been satisfied with the nominations included in the initial panel of officers.
Initially, as per the SC decision on the Panama case, all the concerned institutions, including the FIA, ISI, MI, SBP, SECP and NAB, had sent the names of their respective panel of officers to the SC for the setting up of the JIT.
The apex court, however, later sought additional names from the SECP, SBP and NAB. It was then that the mysterious caller contacted their top bosses. The NAB in its revised panel had included Mangi but the SECP and SBP ignored the caller’s request. Both, however, were later included in the JIT.