Pakistan: Video Stirs Questions About Judicial Impartiality

A senior judge at Pakistan’s anti-corruption court denied on Sunday that he was blackmailed into convicting ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif of graft last year. The denial comes after Sharif's party showed secret videos alleging the judge was intimidated over the case.

Nawaz Sharif PakistanNawaz Sharif, PakistanNawaz Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) party accused judge Arshad Malik of wrongfully sentencing Sharif, who is currently serving a seven-year sentence for corruption.

Sharif’s daughter Maryam Nawaz showed a secretly shot video to a press conference on Saturday. In the video, a judge is telling PML-N party worker Nasir Butt that people confronted him with a compromising personal video to force him to rule against Sharif.

A day later, judge Malik issued a statement saying that the footage was taken out of context and that he was never pressured to convict Sharif. 

"I was not influenced by anyone directly or indirectly,” Malik said. In fact, he stated “I was pressured by Sharif allies to not convict him with offered bribes.”

Sharif was ousted from his post as Pakistan’s Prime Minister in July 2017 for lying about his wealth.

He was convicted on corruption charges in a scandal prompted by the Panama Papers and centered around several luxury London apartments. That case was suspended but he remains in prison in a case regarding ownership of a steel mill in Saudi Arabia.

Maryam Aurangzeb, a PML-N spokeswoman, said Malik had not denied the conversation recorded in the footage, and if he had faced intimidation from Sharif's party she wondered why he had not spoken out earlier.

"Malik's court in Sharif's case was monitored by the Supreme Court judge Ijaz ul Ahsan - why did he not report to him?" she asked.

Osama Malik, a constitutional law expert in Islamabad, told OCCRP that "the video shared by the leadership of the PML(N), if found to be authentic, renders the former Prime Minister's conviction unsafe.” 

“Because the trial was conducted under unprecedented monitoring by a Supreme Court judge, who was part of the judicial panel that disqualified Nawaz Sharif, it is all the more necessary that the apex court, under its monitoring jurisdiction, immediately quash this conviction and order a retrial if necessary," he said.

Sharif denied the corruption charges and repeatedly said the cases against him were politically motivated. He accused the country's powerful military and courts of working jointly to end his political career.

"The video evidence is enough to prove Sharif's innocence and he should be freed immediately," his daughter Maryam Nawaz said.