Ex-CJP Saqib Nisar says latest audio leak amounts to theft, questions authenticity

Former chief justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar on Tuesday issued a rebuttal, saying that the latest audio clip — purportedly of a conversation between him and PTI legal adviser Khawaja Tariq Rahim regarding a high-profile case currently being heard by the Supreme Court — was a “theft” as he questioned its authenticity.

Speaking to Dawn.com, Nisar termed the audio clip a violation of his right to privacy, adding: “This is a theft of my fundamental rights.”

“I am a citizen of Pakistan, an ex-CJP and I give free advice to those in office. Khawaja Tariq Rahim is a friend and I gave him advice,” he said and went on to question the authenticity of the leaked clip.

In the audio clip, which has not been independently verified by Dawn.com, a voice, allegedly of the former chief justice, could be heard giving the reference of a 2010 SC judgement to PTI’s Rahim.

“Please look into that … it is a seven-member judgment […] this is suo motu number 4 of 2010, sir […] seven-member judgement, 2012, has been reported on page number 553 of the Supreme Court,” Nisar purportedly says.

Here, the man on the other end of the call, believed to be Rahim, replies in the affirmative. “Whoever is your lawyer, tell him to check it out. It states that if … never mind, you’ll know when you will read it,” the ex-CJP allegedly says.

In response, the PTI lawyer purportedly says: “I will read. I have seen the seven-member bench judgment. They have stated in it that until the act is not formulated… if you read it carefully, clause three has it…”

At that, the man believed to be Nisar replies “yes I have seen that, it is the way out for you”.

He allegedly goes on: “And secondly Tariq sahab, if any person of yours is ready, you can use the Munir Ahmed Khan [judgment] which is a clear case of contempt of court.”

“That too … that too,” Rahim apparently replies after which the ex-CJP purportedly says “after what happened in Azad Jammu and Kashmir, I don’t think there is any…”

Interjecting the man believed to be Nisar, the person on the other end says that “we are only waiting for the three-member bench’s verdict … it can take another half an hour … after that, we are filing a contempt application”.

The audio leak comes days before an SC bench — comprising Chief Justice of Pakistan Umar Ata Bandial, Justice Ijazul Ahsan and Justice Munib Akhtar — is set to resume hearing a case pertaining to elections in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab.

Earlier this month, the top court — while hearing a PTI petition — had directed the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to hold general elections to the Punjab Assembly on May 14. However, the government had rejected the apex court’s orders.

After repeated back and forth, the Supreme Court last week afforded a temporary respite to the country’s main political parties, giving them a week to develop a consensus on the date for elections to the provincial and national assemblies, so they could be held simultaneously across the country. It is expected to resume the hearing on April 27.

The latest audio is the second clip to surface in the past few days. On Sunday, an audio purportedly featuring a conversation between two women — one of whom was said to be the mother-in-law of a top-ranking serving judge of the SC, while the other was the spouse of PTI’s Rahim — started doing the rounds on social media. The two women could also be heard discussing the case linked to KP and Punjab polls.

PML-N calls for transparency

In a press conference immediately after the audio leak surfaced, Law Minister Azam Nazeer Tarar called the clip “unfortunate”, saying that Nisar should be more careful because of the “perception of the people” about him.

“This conversation clearly shows that he is guiding regarding what needs to be done. He can be heard giving references of judgments,” he stated. “This is a very difficult situation.”

Tarar went on to say that transparency was important to ensure that the Constitution and law were upheld in the country. “People should be able to trust institutions, especially the judiciary … and this can only happen when there is transparency.”

In a tweet, Defence Minister Khawaja Asif said that he was disappointed to hear the audio, claiming that Nisar had moved way too far in his revenge against PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif.

“You took revenge on Nawaz Sharif and sentenced him. How long will you continue to feed on this poison?” he added.

The PML-N — especially its chief organiser Maryam Nawaz — has time and again blamed Nisar for disqualifying the party’s Quaid Nawaz Sharif as prime minister in 2017 in the Panama Papers case.

Minister for Planning Ahsan Iqbal said that the “mastermind of the 2017 regime change and judicial martial law conspiracy still conducting the orchestra”.

On the other hand, PML-N leader Malik Ahmed Khan said that a suo motu notice should be taken on the recent audio leaks.

Audio leaks

Of late, a slew of audio leaks featuring key government and opposition figures — including Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, PTI Chairman Imran Khan, PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz, and others — have surfaced on social media.

The clips, seemingly featuring informal conversations, had raised serious concerns regarding the security of government offices — particularly the Prime Minister’s Office.

PM Shehbaz had termed the surfacing of audio leaks a “very serious lapse” and announced that a high-level committee would be constituted to probe the matter.

On the other hand, the PTI had filed a petition in the SC seeking a probe into the audios. Former premier Imran Khan had also written a letter to Chief Justice of Pakistan Umar Ata Bandial and other SC judges, and sought “enforcement” of the fundamental rights of the public, including the Constitution’s Article 14 (fundamental right to privacy).

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