ISLAMABAD: A three-member judicial commission, appointed by the federal government to probe the veracity of recent audio leaks, announced on Monday that the proceedings would be open to ensure transparency and openness. The judicial commission, headed by Justice Qazi Faez Isa, and comprising Chief Justice Balochistan High Court (BHC) Naeem Akhtar Afghan and Chief Justice Islamabad High Court (IHC) Justice Aamir Farooq held a preliminary meeting on the matter at the Supreme Court building on Monday.
The commission asked the attorney general for Pakistan (AGP) whether he had any objection to the open proceedings. The AGP stated that he had no objection; however, if some information was not appropriate to be shared in the open, then the commission should meet on camera. The commission remarked that any request for in-camera proceedings on the sensitive issues would be looked into and a decision would be made on it. The commission directed the federal government to provide an android cell phone with SIM to the secretary immediately, and the secretary’s contact details would be shared with all.
The commission also directed the attorney general to provide mobile phones and SIMs to the commission and said that the phone number provided to them would be made public. Justice Qazi Faez Isa ordered the attorney general to provide all records by Wednesday (tomorrow). Moreover, the commission also asked him to submit a list of people involved in it. The commission remarked that if there is an error in the transcript, action would be taken against the officer concerned. The federal government should ensure the delivery of all the material by May 24, whose audios are provided with their names, designations, and contact numbers.
Justice Isa also clarified the jurisdiction of the inquiry commission and remarked that the inquiry commission is not the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC). “No action will be taken against any judge; the commission has been set up only to determine the facts, and there will be no interference in the jurisdiction of the Supreme Judicial Council,” he remarked. The commission could issue summons to those who would not cooperate; efforts would be made not to issue summons, but notices, Justice Faez Isa remarked.
The commission has also been directed to make arrangements to play audio leaks during the proceedings, and the AGP has also been asked to determine the agency concerned to verify the audio. He questioned how the audio leaks would be verified. The commission was informed that the Punjab Forensic Agency could be contacted for verification.
Justice Isa remarked that the forensic agency worker should be present in the proceedings, so that if any person refuses, then there is immediate verification. Moreover, the commission has directed all authorities concerned to issue notices and get compliance done immediately, while upon receiving the notice, the proof has been ordered to be provided in the form of a photograph or signature.
Earlier, a notification was issued pursuant to the Pakistan Commissions of Inquiry Act, 2017 (‘the Act’). The commission appointed Hafeezullah Khajjak, deputy registrar, of Balochistan High Court, as its secretary and held that the chairperson and members of the commission would not be contacted.
“All concerned, including witnesses and the general public, will be informed through advertisements, published in three Urdu and three English language national newspapers of wide circulation: Urdu advertisement shall be published in Urdu newspapers and English advertisement in English newspapers,” says the order issued by the commission. The commission said that the advertisements would inform all those mentioned in the notification and by those who may have any information to provide the same to the secretary through email, messages on cell phone and/or by post, as under:
Hafeezullah Khajjak, secretary to the Commission
Cell phone number: 0301-5579326
Postal address: Supreme Court Building, care of private secretary to Justice Qazi Faez Isa,3rd Floor, Judges Block, Constitution Avenue, Sector G-5, Islamabad. The commission held that any information and/or document, which anyone wants to provide to the commission, must be done so by the person mentioning his name, address and contact details (address, email and cell phone number). The three-member commission announced that the venue of the commission would be Court Room No 2, Supreme Court Building, Islamabad.
“If the elderly ladies, residents of Lahore, whose statements are required to be recorded, request that their statements be recorded at Lahore, the venue of the commission may be shifted to Lahore, in a courtroom in the Supreme Court Branch Registry, Lahore,” says the order.
“If any person, who is not examined and/ or who thinks that his/ her interest may be adversely affected, such person will be entitled to record his/her statement and on his/her request may be permitted to cross examine the person making the statement,” says the order, adding that next hearing will be held on May 27, 2023 at 10 am in Court Room No. 2 of the Supreme Court Building, Islamabad.The commission directed that its order would be uploaded by the office of the AG on the website of the office of the AG on a separate webpage, titled ‘Commission 2023’.
Further orders, whenever directed, would also be uploaded on the said website. Chairperson Member Islamabad Member,” says the order.
Meanwhile, former prime minister and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan requested the Supreme Court to declare as ultra vires to the Constitution the notification issued by the federal government, constituting a judicial commission for probing the veracity of the recent audio leaks.
The PTI chairman filed the petition in the apex court through Babar Awan under Article 184(3) of the Constitution, making the Federation of Pakistan through its Secretary Cabinet, Ministry of Interior, through Secretary Interior and Ministry of Law and Justice through its Secretary as respondents.
He prayed to the apex court to constitute a judicial commission in the light of the judgment, passed by the Supreme Court [PLD 1998 SC 388] regarding illegal phone taping in the interest of justice.
“The self styled terms of reference(ToRs) framed by the Government of Pakistan are politically motivated, aimed at affecting the independence of judiciary and the institution, and it is an outright effort to circumvent and jeopardise the independence of judicator in the country and circumvent the enforcement of different laws of land,” Imran Khan contended.The former PM questioned as to whether the federal/provincial government could requisition or select a judge of a Superior Court at their own to sit in any Commission/Judicial.
He questioned as to what is the effect of the formation/ notification of judicial commission by the federal government at their own without taking into consideration of the provision of Article 175(3) as well as the judgement delivered in Sharaf Faridi and others (PLD 1994 SC 105), where under the Judiciary stands separated from the Executive for all purposes and intents?“Whether after the authoritative pronouncement of the judgement by the Supreme Court in case Benazir Bhutto reported as PLD 1998 SC 305, where under any telephone tapping is declared against the fundamental rights,” the PTI chairman questioned adding that a commission could go into the details of an alleged telephone tapping?
“Whereas under the Supreme Court judgement, the only thing left for determination is, that under what authority of law a telephone conversation of a judge of a superior court, a prime minister or their families, parliamentarians and political workers of a party duly registered with the Election Commission of Pakistan under the Election Commission Act, 2017 can be tapped and what are the consequence of such unconstitutional and illegal phone tapping,” the former PM further asked.
He questioned as to whether the act of constituting the commission and its notification did not amount to a confession by a sitting regime that under their nose, by telephone tapping, fundamental rights as given under Article 4, 9 and 19 are not violated and whether the government is not protecting the unlawful act of telephone tapping particularly in view of the Benazir Bhutto case which is decided by seven-member bench of this count Whether there is a need of constituting a proper judicial commission by this august court to enforce the right to life including 1) Inviolability of dignity of man, equality before law, protection of life to and to probe extra judicial killings, and ruthless arrests, he asked. However, PMLN Senator Pervaiz Rashid sharply reacted to Imran Khan’s petition filed in the SC against formation of a judicial commission on the audio leaks. He said in a tweet on Monday that Imran Khan’s act of challenging the audio leaks commission in the SC showed that he was frightened that his facilitators in all his conspiracies would be exposed soon.
The senior PMLN leader said Imran challenging the commission formation proved that in fact he was a ‘don’ and the ‘Sicilian mafia’. He said running away from the investigation process was tantamount to his confession of his crimes.