By Khalid Hussain-
Munir A. Malik turned the tables on the government as the full court of the Supreme Court (SC) of Pakistan resumed hearing on Monday in the Qazi Faez Isa Petition against the President’s reference against him to the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC).
Counsel of the SC judge systematically established through his submissions before the full court led by Justice Umar Ata Bandial, that the government has over stepped its authority, violated laid down procedures, undertook investigations illegally, allegedly ordered surveillance of the SC judge and his family, and maliciously carried out a media trial with systematic leaks, press conferences and press releases aggressively undermining the trichotomy of powers laid down in the constitution of Pakistan.
The day began with senior lawyer Hamid Khan requesting the full bench to adjourn until the next week in view of the difficulties in travel because of the Dharna situation and the impending elections to the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA). “I cannot understand why the court is opposing adjournment”, he said when the court did not agree to his request. He asserted his request was on behalf of three Bar Councils of the country and said the court may continue day by day hearing from next week onwards.
“This is an important case as it is not anyone but a colleague of ours whose petition we are hearing. It is the Supreme Court that is on trial”, said Jusitice Bandial as he requested Hamid Khan to take a seat, adding, “and let us enjoy your company”.
Continuing his arguments, Munir A. Malik created a superb court room drama by harping on the import of 10 May 2019. “Ordinarily, it would be an ordinary date but as the movie ‘The Longest Day’ goes, it wasn’t”, he said. It was the day various tax authorities from the Assistant Commissioner to the Commissioner Internal Revenue that were received by other officials the same day who also responded on the same day for cross verification of the complainants allegations. The Director General International Tax wrote a letter back to Barrister Shahzad Akbar Head Asset Recovery Unit (ARU) of the Prime Minister who informed him that proceedings have started in the matter concerning Justice Qazi Faez Isa under tax laws following findings by field officers. The 4th letter written on the same day was from the Assistant Commissioner to the Commissioner, the 5th from Commissioner to Head ARU Shahzad Akbar who wrote the 6th letter to Director International Taxation who wrote back the 7th letter to him.
“The bureaucracy should get accolades”, said Munir A. Malik, adding sarcastically, “who says they are slow”? Hearty Laughters rippled through court room one on this.
Referencing another letter written to the Law Minister Farogh Nasim by the ARU on 16 April 2019, Malik pointed out the letter read, “In light of your advice, the following actions were taken…Complainant Abdul Waheed Dogar was interview.” The letter states the complainant gave a copy obtained from Her Majesty’s London Land Registry pertaining to one property owned by Qazi’s wife. The letter also stated one Barrister Zia-ul-Mustafa Nadeem was asked to confirm the documents provided by the complainant. He was asked to conduct an inquiry into the assets and properties of Justice Qazi to verify the assets for corroboration with the wealth statement of the SC judge.
Citing another letter the Head of ARU Shahzad Akbar wrote to Chairman Federal Board of Revenue, Malik submitted to the full court it was marked as a “personal confidential letter” requesting details of the confidential tax returns and wealth statement of Justice Qazi. Addressing the court, Malik stressed, “the collection of evidence started while the complaint has not even reached the Prime Minister. Who authorized it?”
Further probes into the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) for the identity card and tracing the Spanish passport with a five year multiple entry family visa of Justice Qazi’s wife shows that they did not even spare the family of the judge. Then the report of Barrister Zia-ul-Mustafa Nadeem on which the ARU relied also does not provide the source from which he got the information or tells how exactly did he verify the documents he certified to be true.
“All this hectic exchange of letters on 10 May 2019 shows that everything took place on this date. This is an obvious attempt to create a paper trail”, Malik alleged. He held that the “ruling coalition” did not cotton to the Judgement Justice Qazi penned in the Faizabad Dharna suo moto case.
Malik further submitted that the original complaint by Abdul Waheed Dogar did not contain any details of the properties. “To date the government has not provided those documents to us”, he submitted to the full court.
This is a clear case of over stepping authority by the ARU, he said. The ARU takes the complaint to the law minister who throws the ball back into the ARU court asking them to verify the allegations. “It was never put up to the Cabinet or the Prime Minister or the President of Pakistan”, Malik submitted.
Continuing his line of arguments, Malik pointed out that the ARU meets the complainant who provides them with HE’s London Land Registry documents of ownership by Justice Qazi’s wife with her son for one property. “Even that document has not been provided to us to date”, he said. “Now Dogar did not even know how to access information from the HE’s London Land Registry. In his original complaint, he did not even know the correct name of Justice Qazi’s wife”, stressed Malik.
The ARU tasks the Barrister in London to conduct a wider search after meeting Dogar. The Barrister verifies the four properties and their ownership but does not tell how he got the information. There is no way to search for ownership of a property without knowing the full names and addresses. The only other way to do so is to have a court order for the purpose, Malik submitted.
This led to many exchanges with judges asking questions to ascertain the charge of surveillance of the Judge and his family Malik had earlier levelled against the government. Justice Mansoor Ali Khan and Justice Muneeb Akhtar made detailed inquiries asking why he thinks surveillance was carried out. Judges also asked if Justice Qazi visited his family in this period to which Malik said he will need to find out. Malike said surveillance must have started after Dogar’s complaint.
Moving on to the next point in his arguments, Malik said the President’s reference to the SJC was marked “Most Urgent, secret and to be opened by the recipient only”. Reading the cover letter, Malik shared with the court the reference against Justice Qazi Faez Isa was signed by the President “on the advice of the prime minister”. The letter was sent on 23 May 2019 and was addressed to the Secretary of the SJC. Dilating on the procedure, Qazi’s cousel said there was no advice sought from the Cabinet by the prime minister who sent it on his own to the President who did not apply his own mind but forwarded it to the SJC merely on the advice by the PM.
At this point, Malik revisited his main arguments made earlier today meticulously tracing a progression of events from the receipt of complaint by the ARU to the inquiry into the affairs of the SC judge on the advice of the Law Minister and the subsequent progress of the illegal inquiry ordered by the ARU. He also dilated on the nature of properties and the fact that the family was financially not dependant upon Justice Qazi and pointed out that the reference “did not allege impropriety or corruption”.
Then coming to a dramatic close, Malik enlisted all those privy to the contents of the Presidents Reference to the SJC. Shahzad Akbar, Law Minister, Attorney General, Law Secretary, Prime Minister and the President were the primary six on the list while Secretary of the SJC and the Chair of the SJC who is the Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) were the other two. Malik said he does not wish to allege the CJP or the SJC Secretary could have leaked the details of the reference to the media. Similarly, he does not believe that the President or the Prime Minister might have been the source of the leak. “However, the reference was indeed leaked to the media and we must ascertain who leaked it”, he stressed.
Then he cited the press conference by the Special Assistant to the Prime Minister for Information and Broadcasting wherein she referred to the President’s reference and started a media trial of Justice Qazi. He also referred to a joint press release by the ministry of law and justice and the ARU that also dwelt in detail on the contents of the President’s reference citing this as proof that they were carrying out a smear campaign to malign the honourable judge of the SC. He cited many newspaper reports and tweets by journalists to prove that the contents of the President’s reference were leaked to the media. He also referred to the biased role played by the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) that facilitated the smear campaign in the electronic media while censoring agitations by various Bar Councils.
“It was a calculated smear campaign”, he alleged demanding that the court makes sure the source of the leak was also identified following a solid process.
The court adjourned to the next day when Malik will continue his arguments.
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