According to media outlets like Dawn and The News, Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui excused himself from an Islamabad High Court bench hearing, citing a social media smear campaign against him as the reason.
“I cannot hear this appeal due to a malicious campaign against me in the print and electronic media after the bail cancellation of Musharraf,” The Express Tribune quoted Justice Siddiqui as saying.
Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui was part of a bench hearing an appeal by former President Gen. Pervez Musharraf in an Islamabad High Court Case dating from 2007. The hearing resumed in the first week of June, but some media outlets reported that Justice Siddiqui made his exit from the bench expressing anger at social networking websites.
Justice Siddiqui had ordered the arrest of Musharraf under clause 7 of the anti-terrorism act on April 18, 2013 for illegally having confined judges in 2007. After a trial court refused his bail, Musharraf filed an appeal in Islamabad High Court on May 24, 2013.
Truth Tracker spoke to a registrar of the Islamabad High Court, Ejaz Chaudhary, who said that the judge had not officially disclosed his reasons.
“It’s not in the records yet and the order sheet does not reveal any such thing and only cites personal reasons,” he said.
Truth Tracker did an extensive search on social networking websites to find facts behind Justice Siddiqui’s allegations, and found some images:
This image was being circulated on internet forums, and it calls Justice Siddiqui a “Taliban Judge”. It says that he was a candidate for the right party Muttahida-Majlis-e-Amal in the 2002 national elections.
Another image cites data from Pakistan’s 2002 elections lamenting the state of justice in the courts. Truth Tracker also found tweets that had similar sentiments.
Truth Tracker identified two main allegations against the justice and decided to fact-check them:
1) Was Justice Siddiqui a candidate of the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal in 2002?
2) Did he represent Maulana Abdul Aziz, a cleric from the controversial Lal Masjid?
We checked the Election Commission of Pakistan’s records (page 18) and found out that Justice Siddiqui had run for the NA-54 seat in Rawalpindi and had won 12,676 votes. We also found an April 2009 news report that stated that the Justice had been an advocate for the Lal Masjid cleric, Maulana Abdul Aziz.
Musharraf’s All Pakistan Muslim League’s (APML) Secretary General Mohammad Amjad told Truth Tracker that the party objected to Justice Siddiqui’s position on the bench.
“We wanted a judge who had no personal grudge against Musharraf,” Amjad said.
Citing his involvement with the Jamaat-e-Islami, a right-wing party, and his advocacy for Maulana Aziz, Amjad said that the Judge had also represented one of two accused, who had attempted to kill Musharraf.
Truth Tracker contacted S.M. Zafar, a former senator and lawyer, for legal opinion. He said that there is no conflict of interest in the Islamabad High Court if a judge has run for a political seat and lost. Since Justice Siddiqui lost the elections, he could have legally served on the bench.
“The past political experience of a judge has no adverse legal effect,” Zafar said. “It is up to the opinion of the person who appoints him.”
Justice Siddiqui’s statement is half-true. Though there were allegations in the social media against him, they were not widespread and largely sourced to APML supporters. There was not a mass social media campaign against him. Also, the statements about his candidacy in the 2002 elections, although phrased in an aggressive tone, were true, and so does not qualify as a smear campaign.