Former Pakistani prime minister Nawaz Sharif.
Former Pakistani prime minister Nawaz Sharif. Image Credit: AFP

Islamabad: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) Chief Justice Athar Minallah has constituted a two-member bench to hear an appeal filed by former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif against his conviction in the Al Azizia reference by former Accountability Court Judge Arshad Malik.

The bench — comprising Justice Aamir Farooq and Justice Mohsin Akhtar Kayani — will hear Sharif’s appeal on September 18.

Malik had sentenced Sharif to seven years in jail in the Al Azizia corruption reference on December 24, 2018.

In the wake of the video scandal against Malik, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) camp is in high spirits over the possible relief for their leader Sharif and hopes the IHC will overturn the sentence in the first hearing.

However, those opposing this narrative, mostly the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) ministers and members of the ruling party, are of the opinion that the video scandal or the judge’s own admission of having met Sharif or his men had nothing to do with the merits of the case.

The Supreme Court of Pakistan in its ruling on August 24 had also made it clear that the video involving Malik could not be of any legal benefit to Sharif unless it is properly produced before the IHC in the pending appeal, its genuineness is established and then the same is proved in accordance with the law for it to be treated as evidence in the case.

Interestingly, the PML-N lawyers so far have not pleaded before the IHC for any relief for Sharif on the basis of the leaked video nor have they requested the court to consider it as supplementary evidence.

The video was first shared with the media by Maryam Nawaz, daughter of the former PM and Vice President of the party, at a press conference on July 6. It shows Malik admitting that he had convicted Nawaz Sharif under duress.

Later, the video scandal not only cost the judge his posting as the accountability judge it also won him the wrath of the apex court that termed his confession and meetings with Sharif a shameful act.

After Supreme Court’s observation, the Islamabad High Court suspended Malik and ordered his repatriation to the Lahore High Court so that disciplinary action could be initiated against him for violating the code of conduct.

The notification, issued by the IHC Registrar, stated: “The disclosures and admissions made by Mohammad Arshad Malik, District & Sessions Judge/Former Judge, Accountability Court-II, Islamabad in his press release dated July 7, 2019 and the affidavit dated July 11, 2019, prima facie, constitute acts of misconduct and violation of the code of conduct, which warrant initiation of disciplinary proceedings against him.

“Therefore, the chief justice of this court has been pleased to order to place the said Judicial Officer under suspension and repatriate to his parent department i.e. Lahore High Court, Lahore, with immediate effect, for disciplinary proceedings to be conducted in accordance with law.”