ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) have accused each other of leaking a photograph of the prime minister’s son, Hussain Nawaz, on social media, with both sides alleging that the other had shared the photo to further their own political agenda.
The photograph, which appears to be a screen grab from a CCTV feed, bears the date of Mr Hussain’s first appearance before the joint investigation team (JIT) on May 28. It shows the PM’s son sitting by himself in a plain room on the premises of the Federal Judicial Academy, ostensibly facing his questioners.
Expressing serious concerns over the photo’s “illegal publication”, Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb called it “demeaning and a serious breach of investigation rules”.
“Since the JIT is functioning under the supervision of the judiciary, it is the responsibility of the judges to take cognisance of such things, which are creating doubts about the working of the JIT. We have already expressed our reservations before the SC in this regard,” Dr Musadik Malik, the spokesperson for the prime minister, told Dawn.
“What is the purpose of releasing this picture?” he asked, alleging that the PTI activists had made the picture “viral” on social media to “humiliate” the Sharif family.
But the PTI has also called for an investigation into the photo’s release. Maintaining that the photo had been intentionally released by the ruling party as a “calculated and planned move” to present Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his family members as “victims”, the party denied allegations that the photo was shared by any of its activists.
PTI activist Ali Haider Zaidi was one of those who shared the photograph on social media.
But when contacted, PTI Information Secretary Shafqat Mehmood denied the allegation that the picture had been shared on social media by any party activist.
He claimed that this was part of a two-pronged strategy by the ruling party. The PML-N, he said, wanted to drag the judiciary and the JIT into controversy and present the Sharif family as victims. “The release of the picture seems to be a part of the second strategy,” he said.
Talking to Dawn on Sunday, Dr Malik said that releasing the picture, which showed Hussain Nawaz sitting “pathetically” was not only an immoral act, but also against “legal and judicial norms and a violation of human rights”.
“The court, if it is supervising, should not only take notice of the release of the picture but should also take notice of all the intimidation, attempts to shout down people and forcing them to sign or withdraw documents,” he said, referring to PM’s cousin Tariq Shafi’s complaints against the JIT members.
Mr Shafi had alleged mistreatment at the hands of the investigators, claiming that they threatened him with dire consequences if he did not withdraw the affidavit submitted in the Panama Papers case. Mr Malik said the government had already recorded its reservations before the court.
“An investigation does not mean forcing someone to sign off or withdraw something. The JIT should simply carry out its investigation. What the JIT is doing is not in accordance with legal norms,” he said.
While he would not say that the photo’s release was planned, “You will have to admit that there is an element of prejudice in it,” he said.
In her statement, Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting Marriyum Aurangzeb also claimed that “the assigning of controversial epithets, [insinuations about] WhatsApp calls and the illegal release of Hussain’s picture had raised serious questions about the impartiality and transparency of the whole process”.
“The occurrence of these incidents in succession smacked of vengeance, leading to the creation of an ambience of misgivings,” the statement quoted her as saying.
The minister said that the prime minister and his family were meeting all the requirements of justice and attempts to insult and ridicule them for seeking legal recourse constituted a brazen violation of human and legal rights, which was absolutely untenable.
She said that despite their reservations about the entire process and the rampant irregularities, the prime minister and his family were hoping for justice as they believed in the rule of law and supremacy of the Constitution.
Ms Aurangzeb claimed that the picture “was a [testament] to the fact that he was waiting for the justice to be done”.