The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Friday summoned the bureau chief of the ARY news channel over an “organized campaign” against the judiciary.
Chief Justice Athar Minallah, who heard journalist Arshad Sharif’s case, also appointed the IHC Journalists Association and former president of Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) as amicus curiae in the case. In his written order, the chief justice extended the stay order over any action by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) against Arshad Sharif. Petitioner’s lawyer Faisal Chaudhry told the court that his client could not manage to attend the proceeding due to the court’s interference.
Referring to a programme by anchorperson Kashif Abbasi, the court asked the lawyer whether he had watched that programme, in which much was said about the judiciary without any verification. They tried to damage public trust in the judiciary, he added. The chief justice remarked that the court would open even at 3 am if there were a matter related to the constitution or any marginalized segment of the society. He questioned whether any order issued by the apex court had affected anybody.
A narrative is being built against the judiciary, but the court would not allow violation of the constitution, he observed. The petitioner’s lawyer argued that only those who had conducted the programme could answer in the matter. The chief justice asked whether they wanted the court not to hear emergency matters. Addressing ARY’s reporter present in the courtroom, the chief justice asked whether he had shared the press release with his channel regarding how the court had heard the case of journalist Matiullah Jan.
The court, he observed, had heard a number of applications after court timings. If journalist Arshad Sharif is picked up at midnight why would the court not hear the matter, he asked. The chief justice remarked that the Supreme Court had given a clear message that the violation of the constitution would not be allowed. The court asked the reporter how many programmes his channel had conducted on the missing persons and Baloch students.
Former PFUJ president Afzal Butt said the reporters file correct news but some people sitting in offices of media houses do not have much knowledge of the law. The court said that according to law the chief justice is authorized to hear important cases after office timings. During the hearing, the IHC CJ questioned the intrigue surrounding the events of the night of April 9 when the courts were reported to have opened at night, beyond their usual schedule. Referring to an anchorperson’s TV show that he said questioned the high court’s unusual functioning on April 9, he questioned whether the idea behind building this narrative was motivated by political reasoning. Justice Minallah said he was at home when the journalist’s channel was reporting that the IHC chief justice had reached the court and that the court had been opened. “Do not make these statements for your own benefit,” the chief justice warned.
He further stated that a prisoner van had been called to the court at the time because protestors had gathered outside the court. “Only the lights of the IHC building had been turned on. What was the problem with that?” he asked. Justice Minallah further asked whether the journalist wanted the court to be closed and no petition to be heard. “This court does not believe in contempt of court. This court has heard many cases after hours because it considers that its responsibility,” the CJ said, adding that the journalist was expressing doubts about the court. The court adjourned the case till May 12.