A senior judge who accused the country’s powerful spy agency of manipulating elections has been sacked.
Shaukat Siddiqui was removed as judge of a high court in the capital Islamabad through an order issued overnight by the president of Pakistan, the law ministry announced yesterday.
“The President of Pakistan has been pleased to remove Mr Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui ... from his office with immediate effect,” the law ministry said in a notification, without elaborating.
The Supreme Judicial Council, a body that oversees complaints against judges, had recommended Siddiqui’s removal after a secret trial for “defaming a state institution”, the ministry added.
On Thursday, the Supreme Judicial Council – the country’s top body of judges – said that Siddiqui had “displayed conduct unbecoming of a judge of a High Court and was thus guilty of misconduct”.
Siddiqui had accused the Pakistani army’s spy agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), of trying to manipulate national elections that were held in July.
His comment, just days ahead of the polls, further strengthened suspicions that the military was manipulating elections in favour of Prime Minister Imran Khan, whose party ultimately won.
The military denies interfering in politics and judicial affairs and Prime Minister Khan has denied colluding with the armed forces.
Siddiqui said the decision to sack him was not unexpected.
It is widely believed that Pakistan’s army, which has ruled the country for almost half of its history, did not want former prime minister Nawaz Sharif to seek another term.
Sharif was removed by the Supreme Court as premier on corruption charges emanating from a leak of financial data in 2016 known as the Panama Papers.
He was later arrested just days ahead of the elections, a move that is thought to have spoiled his party’s quest for the victory.
“The ISI is fully involved in trying to manipulate the judicial proceedings,” Siddiqui had told lawyers in a public speech days before the July 25 elections, adding that the agency had told the court not to release Sharif and his daughter Maryam until after the polls.
In his speech to lawyers in Rawalpindi, Siddiqui said the spy agency was “involved in corrupt practices including providing aid in the commission of offences and receiving their share from crime money”.
He added: “People from ISI approached my boss and said, ‘We do not want to let Nawaz Sharif and his daughter come out [of the prison] until elections’.”
Legal experts have blamed Sharif’s ouster and his party’s defeat on collusion between generals and judges.
Sharif and his daughter had been arrested in July upon their return from Britain after being sentenced in absentia to jail terms of 10 years and seven years each on corruption charges over the purchase of upscale apartments in London.
They had been looking after Sharif’s now-deceased wife, who was receiving medical treatment in London at the time.
Last month, the Islamabad High court ordered their release on bail after suspending the prison sentences, saying the prosecution had failed to show the properties belonged to Sharif.
Last week, his brother, Shehbaz Sharif, the current leader of the Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz party, was arrested in a longstanding corruption case, days before by-elections for 11 parliamentary seats and 19 provincial assembly seats are due.
Siddiqui is also being investigated for alleged misconduct over the allocation and refurbishment of his official residence.
He has denied the charges.
Also in July, Siddiqui had chided the ISI and the police over alleged abductions.
Rights defenders have long accused the ISI of kidnapping and torturing rights activists, journalists and dissenting voices.
In recent years, a growing number of abductions have taken place brazenly in major cities such as Karachi, Lahore and even the capital Islamabad.
“I am constrained to observe that local police is in league with the mighty agencies who have disrupted the civic fibre of the country,” Siddiqui said in a written order concerning a petition about enforced disappearances.
The military routinely denies being involved.
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