In a rare incident in Pakistan's judicial history, a judge received his transfer message through WhatsApp in the middle of the hearing of a high-profile political case at the special court in Lahore on Wednesday. As the hearing in the drug case against opposition PML-N Punjab chief and former law minister Rana Sanaullah was underway at the special court for Control of Narcotics Substance Lahore presiding judge Masood Arshad announced that he had been asked to stop working through a 'WhatsApp message' therefore he could not continue the proceedings.
"I have just received a message on my WhatsApp. I have been asked to stop from working and my services have been repatriated to the Lahore High Court," Judge Arshad told the defense and prosecution lawyers standing behind the rostrum.
During the proceedings, the judge observed that the video the prosecution presented in the court regarding recovery of 15 kg heroine from the car of Sanaullah does not establish the recovery. The court was hearing the bail application of Sanaullah.
"I am answerable to God only and decision would have been on merit irrespective of who is involved in this case," said Judge Arshad and announcing his recusal from the case.
"As the prosecution failed to establish the fake case instituted by the PTI government and the court intended to give bail to Sanaullah, the judge was transferred by the government. This is unprecedented and perhaps this never happened in the dictatorial regimes of Pakistan in the past. Today is the black day for Pakistan's judiciary," a senior lawyer associated with the case told PTI.
"This is also a test case for the chief justice of Pakistan to take notice and do the needful to restore its prestige," he said and added that nowhere in the civilized world this happens that a judge is stopped in the middle of the hearing.
The judge's announcement came as a surprise for those present in the court. "What happened today is unprecedented. The government is now deciding from which judge it wants to get a case heard. The manner in which the trial judge was stopped from working is highly questionable," said Sanaullah's counsel Azam Tarar.
The government's justice and law department on Wednesday also transferred the judges who were hearing the case of PML-N leaders Shahbaz Sharif, Maryam Nawaz, and Hamza Shahbaz. PML-N spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb said in a statement that selected Prime Minister Imran Khan launched a scathing attack on judiciary by transferring the judge in the Sanullah case.
"Imran Khan is a fascist and he is using the state institutions like Anti-Narcotics Force (ANF) to take revenge from his political opponents," she said and added this 'WhatsApp message reminds us of WhatsApp call on which a Joint Investigation Team was constituted against former prime minister Nawaz Sharif in the Panama case.
She urged the CJP to take notice of this as this never happened in the country's history before.