Law Minister Farogh Naseem said on Friday that the sentence handed down to Nawaz Sharif in the Al-Azizia Steel Mills case can neither be reduced, nor that can be abolished until a verdict is announced by the Islamabad High Court on the appeal filed by the former premier.
Nawaz, who has thrice been the prime minister of Pakistan, was sentenced to seven years in prison after being convicted by an accountability court in the Al-Azizia Steel Mills case. His appeal against the verdict remains pending with the high court.
Speaking at a press conference, Naseem said Judge Arshad Malik, who announced the verdict against Nawaz, has been asked to report to the Law Division. The Islamabad High Court acting chief justice had asked the Ministry of Law to remove Judge Malik from his position as an accountability court judge until an investigation against him is completed.
The investigation pertains to an alleged video of the Judge Malik released by Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz leader Maryam Nawaz last week.
She claimed the judge was blackmailed into convicting Nawaz without any evidence and had admitted that. According to her, Judge Malik called PML-N leader Nasir Butt to his house himself to clear his conscience and she showed a video clip from their meeting.
But Judge Malik maintains the video clip is not representative of their conversation. He said it was cut and edited and was not reflective of what he said. The judge also said that the PML-N, more notably Nawaz’s family, tried to bribe him during his trial and when he didn’t cooperate, they threatened him.
He had also called for an investigation into the video. Taking notice of the matter, IHC’s Justice Aamer Farooq asked on Friday the law ministry to immediately issue a notification withdrawing his powers.
Farogh told reporters that Judge Malik announced the verdict on the basis of merit in the Al-Azizia Steel Mills case, despite pressure on him.
He said the IHC was to decide whether the judge misconducted himself or not. “But the nature of the [Al-Azizia Steel Mills] case remains the same, which is providing the money trail of London apartments.”
The law minister said the video clip or the judge’s statement was not a “make-or-break” factor in the case. He said the case was entirely based on documentary evidence, relating to the assets and their justification.
“Provide the money trail today and [you may] get a release,” Naseem said of Nawaz. “But if there is no money trail, then it’s writing on the wall.”
The minister went on to say that a person could be sentenced to 10 years in prison for trying to influence a court. He said the government stands by the law and justice, and no one would be allowed to pressurize the courts.