May 9 case trial: Punjab govt moves LHC against ATC judge for ‘favouring Imran, Qureshi’

The special judge, Malik Ejaz Asif, of ATC, Rawalpindi, was hearing the cases of the duo related to their involvement in the May 9 incident

By Umar Cheema
April 18, 2024
PTI founder Imran Khan (L), and the party's senior leader Shah Mahmood Qureshi. — X/ShirazHassan/File

ISLAMABAD: The Punjab government has accused an Anti-Terrorism Court judge of sympathising with Imran Khan and Shah Mehmood Qureshi and has sought a disciplinary action against him.


The special judge, Malik Ejaz Asif, of ATC, Rawalpindi, was hearing the cases of the duo related to their involvement in the May 9 incident.

The reference was dispatched to the Lahore High Court late Tuesday by the Office of the Prosecutor General Punjab which states that the “Home Department, Government of the Punjab, and District Public Prosecutor, Incharge Prosecution ATC ATC, Rawalpindi has reported commission of misconduct by the learned Judge Anti-terrorism Court.”

In the reference, as many as eight charges have been furnished against the judge. Included among them are two related to the sympathetic treatment which, the reference alleges, has been accorded to the two prominent accused, the leadership of PTI. Meanwhile, the public prosecutors have been directed not to appear before him as the request for proceeding against him has been initiated.

The prosecution stated in the reference that the judge visited Imran Khan’s cell on March 25. In the cell, the prosecution alleges, the judge said to Imran Khan, “Since I have now arrived, tell me anything which I can do for you.”

As the PTI chairman demanded a refrigerator, the judge obtained an application from him and ordered to acquire the same from Qureshi. Subsequently, both the accused were granted this facility, alleges the reference, the copy of which is available with The News.

The judge issued the order in this regard without giving a prior notice of these applications to the prosecution which also validates the point that the communication in this regard did not take place in the open court, and instead “rather heard them ex-parte and failed to conduct proceedings in open court thereby committing misconduct,” according to the reference.

It is a matter of record that both convicts are in the judicial custody of the learned judge, the reference goes on to state, and the accused are facing trial before Malik Ejaz Asif.

“His predetermined mindset and sympathy for both accused is thus evident on record as learned ATC judge violated the prison rules and went straight to the cells of the convicts,” it reads.

A source close to the judge said the allegations are totally baseless. There are two kinds of judges, he explained. Some are pro-prosecution who give more credence to the prosecution’s arguments and others are pro-defense who are more sympathetic towards the accused. The judge under reference has long been considered pro-defense, he said.

Tenure of a judge at one position is three-year, however, in extraordinary cases, he/she can be pulled out prematurely. There is a likelihood that the judge may be transferred regardless the veracity of the charges keeping in view the already charged environment wherein the judiciary and the executives are at loggerheads with each other which came to prominence after six judges of Islamabad High Court wrote to the Supreme Court narrating the incidents of harassments they faced.

Other charges against the judge are his alleged misbehavior with the jail staff. One is related to the same date (March 25) when he allegedly visited the cell of PTI leadership. His staff was searched as they entered the jail and the learned judge reacted rudely: “Who dared to retain the belongings of my court staff?” The behavior of the judge was neither polite, gentlemanly nor exemplary thus violating prescribed code of conduct thereby constituting misconduct, alleges the reference.

On the next day, March 26, four prison officials appeared before the judge on the jail premises. The reference states the prison officials were subjected to public humiliation and harsh treatment. They were asked to remove their belts, shoes, and socks by the learned judge, the reference alleges, and notes that this treatment reflects a failure to act as one would expect to be treated by oneself. “This behavior contravenes the judicial code of conduct which mandates courtesy and politeness yet firmness to uphold the respect and dignity of the court; thus, the learned judge has committed misconduct,” according to the reference.

As the said prison officers appeared before the judge next day in response to a show-cause notice during the trial of the PTI leaders, the act of disgrace and humiliation was repeated, according to the reference.

“An official in civilian clothes/staff of court stopped them at the door of the court and demanded they remove their belts, shoes and socks indicating a repeated failure to treat them as the learned judge would wish to be treated. “This behavior contravenes the judicial code of conduct as notified by the Hon’ble Chief Justice, Lahore High Court,” reads the reference. The same episode was repeated for three consecutive days.

Between March 25 and March 28, the learned judge frequently lost his temper with jail officers and staff. His behavior towards prison officers was highly deplorable and contrary to the norms of decency. This tarnished the morale of the jail officers and staff and goes against the expected behavior of a judge who should remain calm, neutral and avoid showing any favouritism as per notified code of conduct, reads the reference.

Khalid Iqbal adds: Judge Malik Ijaz Asif of the Rawalpindi anti-terrorism court has declined to preside over the hearings related to the May 9 cases involving Sheikh Rasheed and the PTI leaders.