It began two years ago, after a hard hitting judgment authored by Justice Qazi Faez Isa was responded to with several petitions for review filed in the Supreme Court, where Justice Isa was accused of bias and a lack of temperament. The soundness of his mental faculties were questioned, in similar terminology across several applications, notably in the PTI and the MQM’s petitions for review. It was as if they had the same author, even though they were filed by different advocates.
Incidentally at the time, Farogh Naseem was the law minister on an MQM ticket with Imran Khan’s explicit approval.
It began with leaking information that a reference had been filed against Justice Isa, and its supposed contents where covertly disseminated across social media. The charge was misconduct by way of undeclared assets: Justice Isa was being called a crook.
Within the first few days after hearings actually began nearly two years ago, the allegations were reduced by Justice Isa’s legal team to the malicious falsehoods they were. It was firstly argued to the satisfaction of the bench that Justice Isa had nothing to do with the assets the government had claimed to identify as his, being held in his children and wife’s names. It was next clarified that the assets, two homes in England, were acquired by adult children of independent means assisted by the judge’s wife Sarina Isa, herself of considerable independent means. Justice Isa’s lawyers emphatically argued the income tax requirements of declaring wealth reached only as far as one’s dependents, and neither his children nor his wife were dependent on the judge in any way.
The government’s first charge of the Justice being crooked having been rubbished, was now reduced to them claiming that it was actually his wife who was crooked. And that she had laundered money to buy assets in London and that Justice Isa must have known.
Then, Sarina Isa presented a voluminous rebuttal of allegations of her own assets being illegally accumulated. With title documents and bank statements spanning two decades, she proved the acquisition and movement of her money legitimately from Pakistan to England. Similar movement, albeit in the other direction is one which Prime Minister Imran Khan was afforded a reprieve by the Supreme Court for not being able to explain even though he had taken advantage of an amnesty scheme forgiving unexplained assets.
The government was left without either charge it began its allegation of misconduct with, so it tried to confuse everyone by now making it about Justice Isa’s failure to declare assets in his wealth statement, even though they were not his to declare. Farogh Naseem at one point tried to explain the allegation by bringing up the absolute responsibility that marriage brings, and exampled the consequences by reminding us of how in the past some cultures would throw the widows onto the flames of their dead husband’s funeral pyres.
The court threw out the reference, with all ten judges saying it suffered from malice in law, meaning that the law had been abused to the point of it seeming malicious. In review the court went even further and stopped the FBR witch-hunt against the Isa’s completely.
Since then, little known bloggers have turned up on the internet, placed in shiny virtual sets and studios. They have started quoting surveys about how the Pakistani Justice system is broken and how the judges are being seen to have sided with a brother in hiding his corruption. Whatsapp forwards of such supposed journalism have picked up pace.
Into the mix jumped Anwar Mansoor Khan, who served as Attorney General of Pakistan at the time the Isa references were being pursued by the government. In an interview to a self proclaimed tax expert, the two thrashed out between themselves the same old allegations regarding Sarina Isa’s accumulation of wealth and assets which she had herself rebutted at the podium, and which had been accepted as being exemplary by the head of the bench in the Supreme Court. As there was no audience in this particular interview, and no neutral representation, the pair had no choice but to applaud each other regarding the supposed strength of these facts which according to them were coming out for the first time in public.
Sarina Isa, forced once again to comment on the repackaged old claims, on May 8 wrote a pained letter of rebuttal to the former attorney general. In it, she reiterated that these were all charges which she had already successfully answered during a time when her father was gravely ill, and that they were not officially put to her by the former attorney general even though she had individually nominated him as a party to her petition for review of the Supreme Court order which originally allowed the FBR to reinvestigate the imagined case. He didn’t turn up to say all of this at the time, even though she had ensured he received all the documents he now claimed were missing.
It has become increasingly obvious that the sparseness of coverage of the Justice Isa reference proceedings on mainstream media was by design rather than default. It has also become clear that in the aftermath of being trumped at the court, those determined to malign Justice Isa are now taking advantage of the silence and darkness they helped create and foster around the proceedings, which Justice Isa desperately wanted to be public for this very reason.
Because it was not reported upon in the mainstream in repeated detail, they are able to get away with conjuring up their own set of facts, and presenting them as if for the first time. This allows them two benefits: it lets them tarnish the Supreme Court for having delivered justice in Justice Isa's case, whilst at the same time allows them to build pressure upon the court and deliver a warning against giving an overly harsh detailed judgment in review. A judgment which may perhaps take this hybrid endeavour towards a significant discharge of power.
Meanwhile, the imaginary allegations of misconduct train continues against Justice Isa, its engine room populated by unelected actors who would fail to meet a far lesser standard of misconduct themselves.