Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah on Thursday urged Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Umar Ata Bandial to take notice of recent audio leaks that allegedly feature former Punjab chief minister Parvez Elahi seeking a preferred judge for a case concerning one of his aides.
In rapid succession, three audio recordings leaked on social media on Thursday afternoon, each featuring Elahi in conversation with different people. Sanaullah played two of three clips for media, saying he did not feel it appropriate to broadcast the third one until its veracity had been confirmed. In the first clip, Elahi can be allegedly heard talking to a former advocate general and urging him to ensure Justice Mazahar Ali Akbar Naqvi is part of the bench that hears a case concerning his aide, Muhammad Khan Bhatti. In the second, Elahi allegedly reiterates this desire to Supreme Court Bar Association President Abid Zuberi. In the third clip, which was not played by Sanaullah, Elahi is allegedly in conversation with Naqvi, who assures him that Bhatti is with him, as the PMLQ leader says he is coming to meet both of them.
In his press conference, the interior minister said forensic tests should be conducted of the audios to determine their veracity. “If the former Punjab chief minister is found guilty after the forensic, then the matter should be presented before the judicial committee,” he added. He said if the forensic confirmed the clips featured Elahi, then the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) would be tasked to arrest him. “Prima facie, Parvez Elahi should be arrested after the registration of a case,” he said, adding the FIA had been directed to consult the Ministry of Law and Justice in this regard.
Acknowledging that this was not the first audio leak of conversations and earlier leaks had not triggered any legal action, Sanaullah said if such a response had occurred, Elahi would not have “fearlessly [tried to] manage” the top court of the country. “I will request the chief justice to take notice of this,” he added.
To a question, the minister criticized PTI chief Imran Khan for not appearing in court despite multiple summons. “It is obligatory for everyone to show respect and dignity for the courts, but Imran, despite repeated summons, is not appearing before the court and violating the law,” he said, and urged the chief justice to take notice of the former prime minister’s remarks for allegedly mocking the judiciary. To a question on the dismissal of Khan’s pre-arrest bail, Sanaullah said he would discuss the matter with the cabinet to secure permission for the arrest.
Nothing wrong said
After the clips went viral on social media, Elahi issued a statement in which he insisted he had said nothing wrong in them—though he stopped shy of confirming or denying their veracity. Claiming a conversation between him and a lawyer regarding Bhatti’s case had been taped and “misrepresented,” he maintained that Bhatti had been missing for 10 days and his wife had appealed to the Supreme Court for his recovery.
“They are trying to prove that it’s a sin if a person approaches the courts for justice through his lawyers,” he said, accusing the PMLN of “running a systematic campaign against the judiciary.”
Meanwhile, PTI leader Chaudhry Fawad Hussain claimed Sanaullah’s press conference had “proven” that the federal government was responsible for recording and leaking the clips and claimed this was a violation of the Constitution. He urged the Supreme Court to summon Sanaullah and charge him for the crime of illegal wiretapping.
Zuberi, the SCBA president allegedly conversing with Elahi in one of the clips, claimed it had been doctored. “My office is doing a case in the Sindh High Court of a ‘missing person,’ one Muhammad Khan Bhatti, who was a close aide to Elahi and had conversation in this regard. This case has nothing to do with any pending proceedings in the Supreme Court,” he claimed.