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Former chief justice of Gilgit-Baltistan Rana Shamim on Tuesday told the Islamabad High Court (IHC) that he was unaware of the contents of the leaked affidavit attributed to him. The affidavit alleges that the country’s former top judge at that time, Justice (retd) Saqib Nisar, influenced members of the judiciary to deny bail to the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz leadership before the 2018 general elections.

Justice (retd) Shamim said this during a hearing on show-cause notices issued by the IHC following the publication of a report in English language daily The News by journalist Ansar Abbasi. The report cited Justice Shamim’s affidavit stating that he had witnessed Nisar giving out explicit instructions to a high court judge against granting bails to former premier Nawaz Sharif and his daughter Maryam Nawaz in a corruption case.

IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah had subsequently taken notice of the report, with notices to journalist Abbasi, The News’ editor Aamir Ghouri as well as the editor-in-chief of the Jang Group Mir Shakeel ur Rehman under the Contempt of Court Ordinance.

While all the respondents, including Rana Shamim, were in court, the former G-B chief justice was the only one yet to submit his written reply, reported Dawn.

When Justice Minallah inquired about the submission of his response, Justice (retd) Shamim informed the court that he had been unable to file it as he was dealing with a family tragedy, while requesting the judge to schedule the next hearing after December 12.

Justice Minallah gave him five days to submit the written response.

The former G-B top judge also told the court that he was yet to see the affidavit mentioned in the newspaper’s report. "My affidavit was sealed and only [kept] with my family. I don't know how it was leaked."

Upon this, Justice Minallah responded that the affidavit must have been recorded for a reason. “You will inform the court in your written response how the affidavit was revealed after three years."

Attorney General of Pakistan (AGP) Khalid Jawed Khan, who was also present at the hearing, requested the court to direct Shamim to present the "original" affidavit in the IHC, with Justice Minallah issuing directives to Rana Shamim for the same.

While the Justice (retd) Shamim again sought time to submit the affidavit, the AGP countered that the document was not 10 years old.

The former GB chief justice insisted that he had not seen the affidavit, adding that he had been in a village and had read the report in a newspaper.

"Does he not remember [what happened on] November 10? If he has not written [the affidavit], who has?" the AGP questioned. "Every day is very important," he added, referring to Shamim's requests for more time, reported Dawn.

Justice Minallah also directed the other three respondents — Jang group editor-in-chief, editor of The News and senior journalist Abbasi — to provide copies of their written responses to the amici curiae, observing that the court wanted the matter to proceed in a transparent manner.

Pakistan Bar Council's vice chairman, the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists' president, Advocate Faisal Siddiqui and Reema Omer are the amici curiae (friends of the court) in the matter.

Directing Shamim to make arrangements for submitting his response and the "original" affidavit by December 7, Justice Minallah adjourned the hearing till that date.

During the last hearing on Nov 16, the IHC chief justice had directed the respondents to submit their replies to the show-cause notices within seven days. It had also directed them to appear in person at the next hearing to be held on Nov 26. However, the Nov 26 hearing was later cancelled.

Journalist Ansar Abbasi grilled

During the last hearing, Chief Justice Minallah had asked Abbasi whether he had contacted the IHC registrar before filing the news report and whether verification of contents of the purported affidavit was done in accordance with the editorial policy and journalistic norms.

Abbasi responded that confirmation of the affidavit was sought from its executor i.e. Rana Shamim, adding that he was only a "messenger" and had not violated any journalistic norm.

Abbasi insisted that he had fulfilled all the journalistic obligations before filing the story; however, if the court still wants to proceed he submits himself to be solely tried under the contempt law as the editor-in-chief and the editor were not responsible for the story in question.

In the affidavit, GB's ex-chief judge stated that then CJP Saqib Nisar had made a call to Justice Aamir Farooq of the IHC and asked him not to grant bail to Nawaz Sharif and Maryam Nawaz before the general elections in 2018.

Justice Minallah, however, made it clear that he would not hesitate to proceed against former CJP Nisar if the above-mentioned respondents can share evidence to substantiate the allegations.

Rana Shamim's relationship with Nawaz

A day after the investigative report was published, Supreme Court advocate Ahmed Hassan Rana, the son as well as the lawyer of Rana Shamim, had revealed that the ex-GB judge has had long-standing relations with the PML-N supremo and his party in the capacity of an officer-bearer as well as lawyer.

His father has remained "in direct touch" with Nawaz and even met the PML-N supremo in England before the pandemic, Ahmed had shared.

Speaking on Geo News programme Aaj Shahzeb Khanzada Kay Saath, Ahmed had acknowledged that Justice Shamim had also served as the vice-president of PML-N Sindh in the past and was Nawaz's lawyer in the Memogate scandal case.