The Islamabad High Court (IHC) resumed hearing on Monday a contempt of court case against former chief justice of Gilgit-Baltistan Rana Shamim and three others, related to the publication of an affidavit attributed to the ex-judge in which he accused fellow jurist Mian Saqib Nisar of colluding to deny bails to top PML-N leadership prior to the general elections 2018.
Shamim, senior journalist Ansar Abbasi, resident editor of The News International Amer Ghouri and Attorney General of Pakistan Khalid Jawed Khan are present during today's hearing.
At the outset of the hearing, Justice Minallah questioned whether a newspaper would publish an affidavit given to it by somebody to "tarnish the image" of a judge.
Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) secretary general Nasir Zaidi, who is an amici curiae in the case, responded that was a journalist's duty to publish a news report based on facts.
"The sensationalism of the news gave an impression that judges take directions. It should also have been written that the judge [mentioned in the affidavit] was on leave in those days," Justice Minallah remarked.
He further observed that news of sub judice cases could not be published. He recalled that Shamim had said he had not given the affidavit to anyone.
When the PFUJ secretary general said the country's history was "very harsh", Justice Minallah asked him to not go into the past, remarking that he was only responsible for the Islamabad High Court.
IHC CJ warns Shamim, others
In a written order on December 10, IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah had warned that charges would be framed if the maker of the affidavit, Shamim, the publisher and editor-in-chief of Jang Group Mir Shakeelur Rehman, senior journalist Ansar Abbasi and resident editor Amer Ghouri failed to show it was executed and published for bona fide purpose.
Justice Minallah had issued the order after going through the reply submitted by Shamim in which he explained reasons for executing the statement on oath — dated November 10, 2021.
In the 'leaked' affidavit, on which Ansar Abbasi's report was based, Shamim allegedly stated that Nisar during his visit to GB made a call to an IHC judge and asked him to ensure that former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his daughter Maryam Nawaz are not released on bail before July 25, 2018 general elections. The 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.
In the last hearing on December 7, Shamim's counsel confirmed to the court that the content of the affidavit attributed to his client was indeed accurate.
He, however, added that the affidavit was not supposed to be published.
The counsel had also informed the court that the original affidavit was with Shamim's grandson, who was "underground" in the United Kingdom because he was being harassed.
Justice Minallah had then remarked that people did not go into hiding in the UK, adding that the high court was being "targeted" and the submission of the original affidavit was necessary for progress in the case.
Later that week, Shamim's name was placed on the Provincial National Identification List (PNIL) — a 30-day temporary travel restriction introduced in 2018 as an alternative to the more tedious Exit Control List (ECL).
Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed had said at the time that Shamim's name had been placed on the PNIL "so he doesn't run away".