The Islamabad High Court (IHC) has asked Attorney General for Pakistan Khalid Jawed Khan and the Pakistan Bar Council (PBC) that a list of reliable foreign forensic agencies be prepared to analyse an audio clip allegedly of a conversation between former chief justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar and an unidentified person, and that these agencies be requested for their cooperation and assistance.
The court's orders came during a hearing on a petition seeking the formation of a commission of inquiry to look into the leaked audio clip, which allegedly features the former chief justice speaking to an identified person about a trial of PML-N leaders Nawaz Sharif and Maryam Nawaz.
The petition was filed by former president of Sindh High Court Bar, Advocate Salahuddin Ahmed.
IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah remarked during the hearing that it is not known where the original audio clip is.
The petitioner confirmed that the source is unknown. He pled to the court for the audio conversation to be investigated for authenticity.
"It is our plea that an independent commission be set up to inquire into the matter," the lawyer said.
At this, Justice Minallah pointed out that the hearing is related to the appeal, which does not ask for an inquiry.
"Your petition has the accusation that this court's benches were formed under pressure," the judge said.
In response, Advocate Ahmed said that this allegation is not in his petition, and has been made in Rana Shamim's affidavit.
The chief justice said: "History really is bitter. Judges have acknowledged things in the past, the matter is different here. Was the court compromised and was the bench made under pressure?"
"Do you have even a shred of evidence regarding this? When you say that an inquiry must be conducted, you must realise it will be the judges that were part of the bench that will be probed," Justice Minallah said.
"How is such a thing reflected in the order issued by the judges who were part of the bench? The order stood in contrast to this," the judge continued.
Advocate Ahmed said that his petition centres around an inquiry into the audio clip, and that "it does not say that he (allegedly Saqib Nisar) was talking to a judge on the other side".
"Other references are included in the petition for the purpose of clarification," he explained.
The advocate said that the stage has not yet come for one to declare someone guilty or innocent — "it will be premature".
"These things will be seen during the inquiry. Journalist Ahmad Noorani did a story on the audio clip on Fact Focus. According to a forensic report, the audio clip was not edited," he said.
Advocate Ahmed read out the forensic report and upon being asked told the court that the report was obtained from the internet.
A copy of this audio clip is available with all the channels "who took the risk of playing this audio", he said.
"The channels took it seriously and played the audio clip despite fear of court action in the form of contempt proceedings," he added.
The chief justice said that a lot of things come up on the internet. "Tomorrow in the pending cases more petitions will be filed, stating that this is [another] audio, conduct an inquiry into this," he said.
Justice Minallah said that the report of the forensic agency which the advocate referred to and which was obtained from the internet "cannot be relied on".
He asked the attorney general and the PBC to name authentic forensic agencies and get a report from them.
The chief justice further inquired: "If a forensics analysis of this audio clip is done then who will bear the cost?"
To this, the advocate replied by saying that the Ministry of Law will bear the cost.
"Why must the taxpayers' money be spent on it?" Justice Minallah asked.
He asked once more for suggestions regarding the name of any authoritative forensic agency to forensically analyse the audio clip.
Advocate Ahmed said that the attorney general had told him that he is someone's proxy, so he "cannot suggest any name". He requested the chief justice to inquire from the attorney general directly about this.
The court sought the names of reliable foreign forensic agencies from the attorney general and the PBC and directed the petitioner to provide a copy of the audio clip.
The hearing was adjourned till January 28.
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