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Asif warns the judiciary against overstepping authority

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Defence Minister Khawaja Asif on Tuesday warned that the judiciary could not dictate parliament and if there was any interference in the scope of the legislation, a befitting reply would be given.
Speaking at the National Assembly, Asif fired a broadside at Chief Justice of Pakistan Umar Ata Bandial for sitting on a five-judge bench that suspended the inquiry commission probing the audio leaks.
Asif said that the judiciary and parliament have been at war for several months or at least a year. But now, he added, the situation had come to the point that when the government took a step to fix the rule of law, it was being resisted or abolished.
“Even the judiciary cannot dictate parliament,” Asif, a senior leader of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), told the house. “If there is interference in our scope, there will be a befitting reply.”
Asif explained that the cabinet formed a commission, comprising the senior-most Supreme Court judge and the chief justices of the Balochistan and the Islamabad high courts to investigate the leaked audios.
“We did not appoint members of parliament to the commission or appointed anyone from outside the judiciary, but [still] the Honourable Chief Justice of the Supreme Court has stopped the entire process,” he added.
The defence minister further explained that the government did not include Chief Justice Bandial in the commission because the leaked audios also had the one that was purportedly linked to his mother-in-law.
The minister said that conflict of interest was an established principle. “Whenever a judge is the plaintiff or the accused or has a direct or indirect interest in the matter, he should not sit in the judge’s chair.
“Keeping this principle in mind, we constituted this commission and hoped that the chief justice would be kind enough to recuse himself from the matter and leave the scales of justice in the hands of the commission,” he continued.
Asif said that there was an impression that those conversations in the leaked audio had been recorded with a phone-tapping device. However, he added that phone conversations could be recorded from abroad in the present era.
“Nowadays, one can hack a mobile phone in Pakistan while sitting in the UK, and all conversations can be recorded. It does not require a listening device. Hackers can hack [phones] from anywhere worldwide,” he said.
The United States intelligence agencies and the world’s major powers have interfered, and information was stolen. And this story can happen in Pakistan too,” the minister told the house.
He said that the National Assembly speaker had formed a committee under Aslam Bhootani, but “I am informed that [former chief justice] Saqib Nisar’s son had filed an application against it in the Islamabad High Court (IHC)”.
Asif recalled that former chief justice Iftikhar Chaudhry recused himself from hearing his son’s case. “But such traditions have been abandoned by a few people in the Supreme Court,” he lamented.
“If the then Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry could recuse himself, today he [Chief Justice Bandial] should also recuse himself from this commission on the issue involving the audio tapes of his [Bandial’s] relative.”

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