The Federal Investigation Agency’s Cyber Crime Wing on Wednesday arrested Mian Tariq Mahmood, a man allegedly involved in the video scandal surrounding Accountability Judge Arshad Malik.
Tariq, who was arrested from Islamabad, was presented before a civil judge, who approved his two day physical remand. The suspect was shifted to FIA custody after the remand was approved.
Judge Malik —who had in December last year sentenced Nawaz to seven years in jail in the Al-Azizia Steel Mills corruption reference and acquitted him in the Flagship Investment case — has been at the centre of controversy since July 6, when PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz alleged that he had been “blackmailed” into giving the verdict against Nawaz Sharif.
According to Judge Malik’s affidavit — presented to the Islamabad High Court chief justice as a rebuttal to Maryam Nawaz’s press conference — Mahmood, an old acquaintance of his, had been the one to show him a “secretly recorded manipulated immoral video [showing him] in a compromising position” that was shot while the judge was serving in Multan.
The judge said that this video was later used by Nawaz Sharif’s long-time supporter Nasir Butt to blackmail him.
The video scandal
To substantiate her claims at the press conference, Maryam had played a secretly recorded video that she claimed featured a conversation between Nasir Butt, a man she described as a loyal fan of her father, and Judge Malik.
Maryam alleged that the judge had contacted Nasir and told him that he was feeling “guilt” and “having nightmares” after announcing the “unjust” verdict against Nawaz, so he invited Nasir for a meeting at his residence, where the video was recorded.
Maryam claimed that, in the video, Judge Malik had pointed out the flaws in Nawaz’s corruption trial that he wanted to be conveyed to Nawaz’s lawyers. The judge acknowledged that he had been “blackmailed” and “pressured” into issuing a judgement against the PML-N supremo, Maryam claimed.
The veracity of the contents of the video or any of the claims made by Maryam have not been independently verified by Dawn.com.
A day after the press conference, Judge Malik rejected Maryam’s allegations saying that the former premier was convicted on the basis of evidence.
The judge, in a press release issued on July 7, said that he had seen the press conference as well as the video attributed to him.
“Serious allegations were made against me; it was a conspiracy to affect my credibility as well as that of my institution and my family. Therefore, I want to present the facts.
“I am a resident of Rawalpindi where before becoming a judge, I worked as a lawyer. The individual shown in the video, Nasir Butt, is also from the same city and is an old acquaintance. Nasir Butt and his brother Abdullah Butt have met me many times at numerous instances.
“The video shown in Maryam Safdar sahiba’s press conference is not only contrary to the facts but it is also a despicable attempt to mesh together various instances and topics spoken about, and to present them out of context.” Malik also demanded legal action against those behind the move.
The controversy continued to make news as Maryam released two more video clips “in support” of the first one.
On July 12, a petition requesting a thorough probe for determining the truth in the matter landed in the Supreme Court.
“In these circumstances and surrounding realities, it is most respectfully prayed that an inquiry may be ordered to be conducted so as to determine the truth,” argued the petition moved by Ishtiaq Ahmed Mirza through Advocate Chaudhry Munir Sadiq.
The same day, the Islamabad High Court decided to remove accountability judge Arshad Malik from his post.
On July 12, Judge Malik also gave in a letter to IHC acting Chief Justice Aamer Farooq in which he said that the videos shared by Maryam were fake. He also filed an affidavit before the IHC chief justice along with his letter.
In the affidavit, the judge claimed that he was offered bribes and threatened with dire consequences by PML-N representatives initially to force him into issuing verdicts in favour of Nawaz in the Al-Azizia and Flagship Investments references, and later to coerce him into resigning from his office. He said he refused to accept the bribes and give in to the alleged threats.
During the arguments stage of the references’ trial, the judge said he was again approached by Janjua with a “financial offer” from Nawaz of Rs100 million but that he refused the offer.
The offer was shortly followed by a “thinly veiled threat of physical harm and intimidation” by Nasir Butt, the PML-N ‘sympathiser’ who recorded the video shared by Maryam Nawaz that started the controversy, the judge claimed.
He said once he convicted Nawaz in the Al-Azizia reference and acquitted him in the Flagship reference, Butt and Janjua allegedly started blackmailing him using a compromising video of his.
In the affidavit, Malik claimed that a man named Mian Tariq, who was an old acquaintance of his, had shown him a “secretly recorded manipulated immoral video [showing him] in a compromising position” that was shot while the judge was serving in Multan.
Using “the Multan video” as a threat, Butt then forced judge Malik to accompany him to Jati Umra and tell Nawaz in person that he had convicted the PML-N supremo “under immense pressure from influential quarters”, the judge claimed.
The meeting took place on April 6, but the judge said instead of saying what was demanded by Butt, Malik told Nawaz that he was convicted in the Al-Azizia reference based on merit.
PML-N seeks annulment of Al-Azizia verdict
After Judge Malik’s removal, PML-N, on July 13, requested the Supreme Court to intervene and declare the judge’s decision in the Al Azizia reference against party supremo Nawaz Sharif null and void and order his release from jail.
PML-N president and opposition leader in the National Assembly Shahbaz Sharif said the decision to remove the judge and the videos related to the facts regarding his verdict against the former premier were before everyone. In this situation, he said, “the decision against Nawaz Sharif stands null and void after the removal of accountability judge Arshad Malik. Now to keep Nawaz Sharif in jail is illegal.”
The Supreme Court, on July 16, took up three petitions seeking a thorough probe into the video leak controversy.