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Judges vs spies: Pakistan’s jurists accuse intel agency ISI of intimidation

Six high court judges write an open letter accusing the agency of intimidating and coercing them over ‘politically consequential’ cases.

Dawn Staff Reporter

Islamabad: Six senior Pakistani judges have accused the country’s powerful spy agency of interfering in judicial matters and using “intimidatory” tactics such as secret surveillance and even abduction and torture of their family members.

In a letter dated March 25 but made public on Tuesday evening, the six judges of the Islamabad High Court (IHC) in the capital urged the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) to look into the allegations against officials belonging to the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), the Pakistani military’s premier intelligence agency. The SJC consists of Pakistan’s chief justice, and four other top judges – two each from the Supreme Court and High Courts – and is the country’s judicial watchdog.

“We believe it is imperative to inquire into and determine whether there exists a continuing policy on the part of the executive branch of the state, implemented by intelligence operatives who report to the executive branch, to intimidate judges, under threat of coercion or blackmail, to engineer judicial outcomes in politically consequential matters,” said the letter.

On Wednesday, the Chief Justice of Pakistan Qazi Faez Isa called the entire panel of 15 Supreme Court judges for a meeting to discuss the letter.

The ISI and Pakistan’s military have not responded to the letter yet. Neither Pakistan’s law ministry nor the military’s media wing responded to queries by Al Jazeera, seeking their responses to the allegations in the letter.

The cases of alleged intimidation and coercion by the judges in “politically consequential” cases relate to those against the main opposition leader and jailed former Prime Minister Imran Khan.

Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) has accused the military of orchestrating a crackdown on the party in the run-up to last month’s general elections. The crackdown saw Khan jailed and barred from contesting, dozens of other PTI leaders leaving the party after their arrest, and the party losing its election symbol, forcing its candidates to contest the vote as independents.

Pakistan’s military has repeatedly denied allegations that it interfered in the election.

More than 100 cases against Khan were brought before the IHC, with the six signatory judges saying “considerable pressure was brought to bear” on them by the spy agency. The letter says a judge’s brother-in-law was abducted by “individuals who claimed to be operatives of the ISI” and “tortured into making false allegations”. Another judge said he found secret cameras in his living room and bedroom.

“We, therefore, request that a judicial convention be called to consider the matter of interference of intelligence operatives with judicial functions and/or intimidation of judges in a manner that undermines the independence of the judiciary,” said their letter.



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