In his interview with Geo News,Ex-DG FIA Basgheer Memon had claimed that PM Khan’s Advisor on Accountability Mirza Shahzad Akbar and Law Minister Farogh Naseem wanted him to make a money laundering case against Justice Qazi Faez Isa but he refused to do so because it wasn’t the FIA’s mandate to investigate a supreme court judge. Memon had further claimed that PM Khan wanted him to make a terrorism case against PML-N leader Maryam Nawaz after she played a video of former judge Arshad Malik in her 2019 press conference in Lahore.
He said that he was taken to Shahzad Akbar’s office where it was revealed he was to proceed against Justice Isa. Later, he also allegedly visited the law minister’s office. “Naseem was also convinced that a case should be made against Justice Isa and asked me to play a role.” Memon said he tried to explain how this was not possible as Justice Isa was a Supreme Court judge. “This is the job of the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) and it has the constitutional authority. It does not fall within the FIA’s terms of reference (TORs).”
He claimed that the ministers still tried to convince him to proceed. “I gave examples from the law and the constitution, which in their opinion was the incorrect interpretation but then I had to put my foot down. How can the FIA and the police, which is a law enforcement agency, do something that is illegal and especially that which concerns a judge of the apex court?” When asked on what grounds Naseem wanted to proceed against Justice Isa, Memon replied money laundering. “Their [stance] was that it was my mandate. My opinion was that the SJC could do this, or it could ask us to proceed, but the FIA could not do this at the government’s request.” He stated that he had also consulted with his legal team, which had supported his decision.
When asked whether FBR official Ashfaq Ahmed, who Memon claimed was also present during the meetings, was convinced on filing a case, the former FIA DG said: “Whether it warrants a case or not is another matter. I didn’t have the powers and I was of the opinion that this would go beyond my TORs.” He stated that the FBR official was of the opinion that he could proceed against Justice Isa. “I told him to go ahead [but asked] what do you get out of it? What are you doing with yourself?” Commenting on Ahmed’s denial of any such meeting taking place, Memon said: “I say let’s have an open inquiry. Two to three years have passed since this happened, you can verify the dates.”
On Monday, in a dramatic twist, the Supreme Court by a majority of six to four overturned its June 19, 2020 majority judgement that required verification and subsequent findings by the tax authorities of three foreign properties in the name of the wife and children of Justice Isa. The presidential reference against Justice Isa — in line to become the chief justice on September 18, 2023, for 13 months — was already thrown out by the SC as “invalid” in June last year.
The reference by the government in May 2019 had alleged that Justice Isa acquired three properties in London on lease in the name of his wife and children between 2011 and 2015, but did not disclose them in his wealth returns. Through his petition, Justice Isa had pleaded before the court that the powers that be wanted to remove him from his constitutional office by hook or by crook. President Arif Alvi, he had claimed, did not form his own independent opinion before the filing of the reference against him.
The timings of Memon’s revelations should also be taken into consideration. This comes a day after the apex court accepted Justice Isa and his wife’s review petition. The judge was finally vindicated and all proceedings against him and his family were dropped. The verdict was a rare show of solidarity with a fellow judge to show the superiority of the judiciary and adherence to constitutionalism. Just days later, Memon appeared and claimed that the prime minister and his cabinet members particularly Shehzad Akbar and Law Minister Farogh Naseen pressured him to file cases against the judge which he refused.
The revelations have also given fodder to the opposition particularly Maryam Nawaz who wants the top court to take notice and form a judicial commission to probe the matter. The allegations also show that the government is highly influential on state institutions which can hamper their smooth functioning and provision of justice. The prime minister claimed that FIA, NAB and other vital institutions were independent and there was no political interference. Memon’s allegations have refuted these claims and shows that higher authorities continue to play the shots, meddle in internal matters and dominate over them
The government can discredit these allegations and claim Memon has a soft corner for the opposition but these will not go away. The prime minister needs to demonstrate that the FIA is an independent institution and not used for political vicitmisation. It is imperative that record should be cleared or it will be another blotch on the PTI’s image.