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THE JAIL-TERMS TO NAWAZ SHARIF & MARYAM
The Islamabad High Court Chief Justice, Athar Minallah, has not only dismissed a contempt petition against Maryam Nawaz, daughter of the three-time Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, and the former Prime Minister, Shahid Khaquan Abbasi, but also stated that if the former Chief Justice of Pakistan, Saqib Nissar, who reportedly had agreed to punish the Maryam and Nawaz in cooked up cases of corruption, has any complaint, he could file a suit before an appropriate forum for redress.
The contempt proceedings were initiated against Maryam, who is also the vice president of the Pakistan’s main opposition party, Pakistan Muslim League –Noon (PMLN) due to the absence of her father, and Abbasi, for criticising Nissar, for sentencing the long-term jails under the pressure of some government agencies (believed to be the dreaded Inter Services Intelligence-ISI).
The court’s order got attention because it was pronounced in the wake of the attack on a journalist, Ambreen Fatima, the wife of a well-known investigative journalist, Ahmad Durrani, now in the USA. It is reported that some unknown persons in Lahore while she was driving with her daughter and sister.
The windscreen of the car was broken, but she however, was able to escape by driving fast from the street, where she was being attacked. It is widely believed that Ambreen is being targeted by the Imran Khan government and the pro-establishment or pro-army proxies.
Earlier, many journalists have already been victimized. The pro-government media channels have launched a campaign against Durrani for exposing the exchanges in an audio clip between Mian Nissar, with some unidentified person about the pressure for sentencing Sharif and Maryam.
A few days after this exposure on November 22, Anbreen was attacked; however, she has requested that the attack should not be related to the exposure done by her husband.
Interestingly, Nisar did not rule out in a BBC interview that his voice could be in the audio clip, but so far he is reluctant to go for any formal inquiry about this controversial tape.
Meanwhile, Justice Minallah has dismissed the contempt petition filed by a local woman lawyer, Kulsum Khaliq, who had petitioned against Maryam and Shahid Khaquan Abbasi for asking the judiciary to initiate suomoto inquiry on its own into the allegations. .
In his detailed order, the judge observed that the contempt law could not be invoked for the sake of a retired judge. The petitioner denied when the court asked whether the respondents, Maryam and others, had stated anything against the Islamabad High Court or its judges which could interfere in the due administration of justice.
He also quoted from the judgement of the House of Lords in the UK, which had observed in the case, Ambard v.
Attorney -General for Trinidad and Tobago that “whether the authority and position of an individual judge or the due administration of justice is concerned, no wrong is committed by any member of the public who exercises the ordinary right of criticising in good faith in private or public acts done in the seat of justice.
Justice is not a cloistered virtue: she must be allowed to suffer the scrutiny and respect even though outspoken comments of ordinary men, he asserted.
He further observed that a judge, who holds a judicial office upon retirement instantly serves his or her connection with the judicial organ and the courts, thus attains the status of a private citizen.
He, however, has the option to seek remedies available in a court of law. He also reminded that the authority of a judge is not dependent on the words of a Constitution, but it rather rests on public respect and the confidence of the people.
The impact of these debates appears to have enhanced the image of Pakistan, mostly ruled by army dictators since its inception in 1947.
It could be a reason that due to this on-going struggle for genuine democracy, the US state department has included Pakistan in the virtual “Summit for Democracy” scheduled to take place online on December 9 and 10.
It is expected to be followed by an in-person meeting at its second edition next year.
THE VIEWS EXPRESSED BY THE AUTHOR ARE PERSONAL(:The writer is accredited as a Journalist of Long and distinguished service with the Press Information Bureau of the Information and Broadcasting Ministry)