'Will not take a leap in the dark': SC orders FIA to finish Arshad video leak probe within three weeks

The Supreme Court ordered the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) to complete its probe in the video leaks controversy involving accountability court judge Mohammad Arshad Malik within three weeks, saying it wants to ascertain the truth of all allegations against the judge before proceeding in the matter.

The directions came as a three-judge bench, headed by Chief Justice Asif Saeed Khosa and comprising Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed and Justice Umar Ata Bandial, resumed the hearing of three identical petitions on the video scandal involving judge Malik, all seeking a directive from the apex court for the constitution of an inquiry committee or a judicial commission. The petitions have been filed by Ishtiaq Ahmed Mirza, Sohail Akhtar and Tariq Asad.

Attorney General Anwar Mansoor, who was assisting the top court in deciding the appropriate course of action, opposed the petitions and the formation of a judicial commission to probe the matter, saying there was no need for its constitution because a separate forum exists to deal with such matters.

But the chief justice made it clear that the SC would examine all evidence to prevent any loss being incurred by anyone. He said the court was considering different options — the last of which would be setting up a judicial commission — but would take a decision after perusing the inquiry report.

“We will not take a leap in the dark,” Justice Khosa said, observing that some people might want the apex court to rush through the matter.

The chief justice observed that the judicial commission, if constituted, can only give its opinion on the matter and not pass any judgement.

“Only the high court can give relief to Nawaz Sharif,” he said, adding that the high court can order a re-trial of the Al-Azizia reference and even decide the matter itself after examining the evidence.

He regretted the fact that despite the serious allegations exchanged between different sides in the matter, no party had approached the relevant high court with an application.

The chief justice wondered whether the SC should interfere in the matter at all. “Would the intervention have any benefit or will it only generate headlines?” he asked.

One of the questions being examined by the apex court, according to Justice Khosa, was whether it was appropriate for judge Malik to visit Nawaz’s residence after sentencing him.

Justice Bandial remarked that the SC had to ascertain the truth of allegations levelled by both sides while maintaining the sanctity of the court.

The bench subsequently directed the FIA to complete its probe in the matter within three weeks. The attorney general was asked by the court to ensure the inquiry is completed in a timely manner.

The attorney general earlier informed the court that the FIA had arrested Mian Tariq Mahmood, a central suspect whom judge Malik had accused of making a controversial video concerning him.

According to the law officer, Mahmood had sold the video to a man named Saleem Raza, but he (Mahmood) claimed that the cheque he received in exchange for the video could not be cashed.

The hearing of the petitions was adjourned for three weeks.

The scandal

The matter of the video had surfaced earlier this month after PML-N vice-president Maryam Nawaz released a secretly filmed clip that showed judge Malik telling a man — identified by her as Nasir Butt — that he had been “blackmailed” and “pressured” to issue a verdict against Nawaz Sharif that landed the former prime minister in jail in the Al-Azizia reference.

In a rebuttal, Malik said that Butt had forced him to make the aforementioned claims by using a “secretly recorded manipulated immoral video [showing him] in a compromising position”, which was shot in Multan, as a threat.

Judge Malik had already been removed by the Islamabad High Court on July 12 over the scandal following weeklong consultations, inclu­ding with the Supreme Court.