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July 7, 2019

Were SC judges blackmailed in 2007?

Top Story

July 7, 2019

ISLAMABAD: The British newspaper — The Times —published a story in 2007 claiming that some of the Pakistan's Supreme Court judges and their children were secretly filmed in compromising positions with their lovers and prostitutes as part of a dirty tricks campaign by some agencies.

The story claimed that the videos were sent out to at least three of the 11 judges in September 2007 as they were deciding whether General Pervez Musharraf was eligible to run for the president while still being the army chief. One showed a judge with his young mistress, while another was of a judge's daughter having sex with a boyfriend. "The message was clear," the newspaper quoted a British barrister who was told about the tapes by a Pakistani counterpart. "If you rule the wrong way, these will be made public and your family is destroyed."

Fearing that the ruling would go against him, Musharraf declared the state of emergency that plunged the country into crises. The newspaper reported although Musharraf claimed he had acted to prevent extremists taking over the country, the judiciary appeared to have been his principal target, the story said, adding, “No jihadi leaders were arrested but he sacked Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, the chief justice, and eight of the 11 Supreme Court judges and scrapped the constitution.” It added, “Since declaring the state of emergency last weekend, Musharraf has placed most of the country's top judges and human rights activists under house arrest. Lawyers have so far led most of the protest rallies and hundreds have been arrested. The sacked judges have been replaced by others who swore an oath of allegiance to Musharraf.” “According to western diplomats, it was Musharraf's intelligence chiefs who talked to him into the desperate measure by convincing him that the Supreme Court was about to overturn his reelection as president. But it might have been false information.

Rana Bhagwandas, a Supreme Court justice who was also under house arrest in the judges' colony in Islamabad, said his colleagues had not reached a verdict at that time. Others claim the judges were poised to confirm Musharraf's election by a narrow margin, fearing the instability that would be created by a ruling against him. One retired general said he had been told that the judges were 6-5 in favour of upholding Musharraf's reelection.” The newspaper while quoting unnamed government and Supreme Court sources had claimed that hidden cameras continued to be used to compile compromising evidence against judges until a few weeks before the emergency was declared. “The family of the woman who was having an affair with a Supreme Court judge said they were devastated to learn that her trysts had been filmed,” the story read. It added, “According to judicial sources, several judges had been receiving visits from prostitutes as ‘payment in kind’ from private clients to whom they had given legal advice.” It was reported by the newspaper that a particular intelligence agency was sending the girls and the judges were enjoying it without knowing they were being filmed. “Now they have videos of several judges," the newspaper quoted a court source saying.

The Times report added that the chief justice himself was the subject of a separate smear campaign during the government's attempt to have him dismissed in March 2007. Among the affidavits claiming he had used his influence to help his son get a plum government job was an anonymous letter which implied a sexual impropriety. The letter was denounced as "scandalous" by the judges shortly before Musharraf was forced to climb down and reinstate Chaudhry in July, the story said.

When a retired government official, who was very close to Musharraf in dealing with an important matter, was contacted, he said the Time’s report was totally false and libelous. He said in fact at that time the western media had turned against Musharraf, adding that the former president had not done anything immoral. He said the report was also an effort to malign the respected judges of that time. He said it was an effort by the international media to hurt Pakistan and its institutions. When he was asked that The Times was such a widely circulated and prestigious newspaper, and also that such reports surfaced on the local media, however, in a vague manner, then why was it not challenged at that time, he replied things got messed up at that time, and it was not considered proper to react to the media, adding everything appearing in the media may not be true.

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