Pakistani judge rejects accusations he ruled against ex-PM Sharif under duress

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Maryam Nawaz addresses rally in Mandi Bahauddin a district in Punjab on July 07, 2019. (Photo Courtesy – PML-N)
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Ousted Prime Minister of Pakistan, Nawaz Sharif, appears with his daughter, Maryam, at a news conference in London on July 11, 2018. (Reuters)
Updated 08 July 2019

Pakistani judge rejects accusations he ruled against ex-PM Sharif under duress

  • Says decided all cases “on the basis of evidence” despite being offered bribes and threatened by Sharifs
  • Sharif’s daughter held a press conference on Saturday, showed a secretly-filmed video of the judge admitting he wrote verdicts under pressure

ISLAMABAD: An accountability court judge said on Sunday he had ruled in a corruption case against former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on the “basis of evidence,” rejecting accusations by the daughter of the jailed leader that her father was wrongfully convicted because the judge was “blackmailed” into issuing a wrongful verdict.
At a press conference flanked by senior leaders of the Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PMLN) party on Saturday, Maryam Nawaz Sharif said accountability judge Arshad Malik had confessed during a meeting with PMLN leader Nasir Butt that he was forced to issue an “unjust” verdict against Sharif by ‘people’ who blackmailed him with a “personal video.” The video of Malik’s conversation with Butt was ostensibly filmed in secret, without his permission.
Sharif was sentenced to seven years in prison and fined $25 million on corruption charges by Judge Malik in December last year who ruled that the three-time prime minister was unable to prove the source of income that had led to his ownership of a steel mill in Saudi Arabia. Under Pakistani law, this is taken to prove corruption. On the same day, Malik acquitted Sharif in a second case relating to Flagship Investments, a company established by his son, Hasan Nawaz, that owns luxury properties in Britain.
“If I had to bow to pressure or any material greed, I would not have exonerated [Nawaz Sharif] in one case and handed down punishment in another one,” Malik said in a press statement on Sunday. “I want to clarify it there was neither any direct or indirect pressure on me nor was there any greed. I decided all these cases on the basis of evidence.”
He added that representatives of the Sharif family had offered him bribes repeatedly to rule in the former prime minister’s favor and also threatened him: “I decided to stay firm … entrusted my life and wealth to Allah,” Malik said.
He said the video shown in Maryam’s presser was “fake and concocted,” urging legal action against those involved in making it.
Describing the clip as “divine help” for her family, Maryam had described during her press conference that the judge could be heard in the video highlighting several flaws in his own verdict that he wanted Nasir Butt to convey to the Sharif family lawyers to help him get an acquittal verdict in appeal hearings.
Sharif has always termed the charges against him politically motivated and accused the military and courts of working together to end his political career and destabilize the PMLN party. Both deny the charge.
PMLN spokesperson Marrium Aurangzeb rejected Malik’s accusations that he was offered bribes or threatened by Sharif family representatives, and said if there was pressure on the judge, he should have come forward earlier while the cases were being heard.
“If there was pressure on him, he should have told Supreme Court ... that Sharif family representatives had offered him a bribe,” she told Arab News on Sunday.
A day earlier, Pakistan’s de facto information minister, Firdous Ashiq Awan, had condemned the allegations against the accountability judge and said the PML-N had maligned the judiciary. She said a forensic audit of the video would be conducted, adding that it was important to ascertain if the contents of the video were “real or tampered.”
Pakistan’s Electronic Media regulatory Authority (PEMRA) has also sent a notice to several private news channels over the live broadcast of Maryam’s press conference, calling it “in violation of PEMRA laws and code of conduct.”
On Sunday, opposition leader and chairman of the Pakistan People’s Party, Bilawal Bhutto, expressed “grave concern” over Maryam’s allegations and called upon the superior judiciary to take appropriate action.
“If for some reason the judiciary is not inclined to address such issues then the opposition parties must deliberate on it and formulate a united course of action,” Bilawal’s spokesperson senator Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar said.
Politics professor Dr. Rasul Bakhsh Rais said if the video was indeed genuine, then “the burden of proof is on the honorable judge to prove he was blackmailed.”
“Ethically, professionally and legally, a judge, such as him, is wrong and guilty of miscarriage of justice if he admits that he has given a verdict under pressure,” Rais said. “I think the judge has been drafted into playing politics in support of the Sharif family. He had an option to recuse himself from the case if he felt someone was placing him under pressure.”


Pakistan on high alert amid coronavirus outbreak in China

Updated 9 min 56 sec ago

Pakistan on high alert amid coronavirus outbreak in China

  • No case reported in Pakistan, says National Institute of Health
  • Screening procedures for signs of the coronavirus introduced at air, land and sea entry points

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s Ministry of National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination has issued an order for the highest level of vigilance and necessary preventive measures amid the deadly Wuhan coronavirus outbreak in China.

Health officials in Islamabad confirmed to Arab News that while the number of coronavirus cases in central China has surged to over 500 and at least two dozen people have died, no infections have been reported in Pakistan.

According to the top priority notice, health administrators have been ordered to take precautions against the “SARS-like” coronavirus by screening passengers at the country’s four major airports – in Islamabad, Lahore, Karachi and Peshawar – and prevent the spread of the disease by monitoring seaports and the Pakistan-China border, National Institute of Health executive director Maj. Gen. Dr. Aamer Ikram told Arab News on Friday.

The respiratory virus epidemic, which reportedly has already reached Southeast Asia, the Middle East, Far East and North America, has striking similarities to Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) that killed hundreds in China a couple of years ago. 

“The major threat we see (of the virus entering Pakistan) is from the airports because around 40 flights come from China and surrounding region,” Ikram said, adding that “China has taken an aggressive stand on the matter by restricting flights, which is a good move because this reduces the chance of spreading the virus.”

The number of travelers from and to China has increased since the inception of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which comprises multi-billion dollar infrastructure development projects.

As thousands of Chinese workers have arrived in Pakistan under the CPEC, there is no indication that extra measures had been taken to screen their health condition. According to Dr. Ikram, however, China has been sharing health-related information with Pakistan.

Since there is no known cure for the coronavirus, NIH remains focused on prevention. For the past six weeks, Ikram said, the institute has been training staff at entry points, from the Gwadar Port in southern Balochistan province to the border crossing in Torkham, in northwest Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Personnel at checkpoints and airports have been equipped with health surveillance and thermal scanning tools, he said.

In view of the outbreak, Pakistan’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) introduced new screening measures to prevent the virus from entering the country. All incoming passengers from China have to go through health counters for thermal body scanning and are checked for symptoms of the deadly virus by a doctor and two paramedics. Quarantine rooms have been set up in accordance with international standards, CAA said in a statement on Friday.

Passengers embarking on Pakistan International Airlines flights from Beijing are also being screened before departure to Pakistan.

The Foreign Office is in touch with Pakistani missions in China to oversee nationals who may be affected, a spokesperson said during a weekly press briefing.