The federal government on Friday relieved accountability court judge Arshad Malik from his duties on a request by the Islamabad High Court (IHC) following his alleged involvement in a controversial video scandal.“The recent development i.e. releasing of videos, issuing of press release by the Registrar, Accountability Court-II, Islamabad and affidavit submitted by the incumbent judge narrating his versions require his immediate removal. He may be removed/relieved from his duties by the competent authority,” the IHC had requested in a letter to the Ministry of Law and Justice. “The law ministry has stopped Arshad sahab from working [as a judge] for now,” Federal Minister for Law and Justice Barrister Farogh Naseem later told a press conference, adding that judge Malik has been directed to report to the Lahore High Court, his parent department. He said after receiving the letter of the Islamabad High Court, the law division has barred judge Arshad Malik from working as judge till further orders of the quarters concerned.The law minister, however, clarified that the Al-Azizia sentence will not be overturned unless the IHC decides that the verdict was issued under duress. He said any video leak or affidavit cannot quash the verdict of the accountability court against Sharif Family until convicted persons provide money trail to the court. “No one can deny the existence of the Avenfield apartments, moreover the merits of the case cannot be changed, however if anyone has concerns, he can approach the appellate court and prove his innocence,” he added. “Judge Arshad Malik said in his affidavit that he gave a free and fair judgment on merit and if he wanted to pass the judgment under pressure or because of blackmailing then he would not acquit members of the Sharif family in one case and convict them in the other,” the minister maintained. He said according to the affidavit of Arshad Malik, Nawaz Sharif’s son Hussain Nawaz offered him Rs 50 crore in bribe along with settlement abroad, and over refusal gave him life threats. “If anyone tries to obstruct court proceedings or intimidates judiciary then under Section 31-A of the National Accountability Ordinance and CrPC, 10-year imprisonment can be awarded to such person,” the minister said. “Neither law ministry nor PM Office can acquit Nawaz Sharif as he has been convicted by following due process of law and only the court of law can free him if he provides money trail,” he said.Farogh Nasim said the government will stand by the judiciary and will not victimise anyone or take sides but will not tolerate manipulation of judiciary. No one will be allowed to coerce the judiciary, he said, adding that Al Azizia case was not opened under the PTI government. He once again clarified that NAB cannot do anything regarding the sentence and that the sentence cannot be suspended or changed in any way until Islamabad High Court takes a decision regarding whether the judgment was passed under pressure.Special Assistant to Prime Minister Barrister Shahzad Akbar said the affidavit of Accountability Court Judge Arshad Malik submitted to Islamabad High Court has fully exposed the Sharif family. “As per judge’s affidavit, the Sharifs, like a mafia, used every tactic to get favourable judgments from him under duress, which also proved that the Supreme Court in the Panama papers case verdict had rightly used the words ‘Godfather’ and ‘Sicilian Mafia’ for them,” he said while addressing the press conference alongside the law minister. He alleged that like the tactics used by mafias, the Sharifs’ frontmen tried to bribe, browbeat and hurl threats to the judge. “The frontmen offered Rs 100 million bribe to Judge Arshad Malik for setting Nawaz Sharif free in the Avenfield and Al-Azizia references,” he said.Shahzad Akbar said the two cases were being heard by Accountability Court Judge Muhammad Bashir and their proceedings were at an advanced stage with recording of many witnesses against the accused. “However, under a well thought out plan, the cases were got transferred to Judge Arshad Malik,” he claimed. He alleged that PML-N leaders Nasir Butt and Nasir Janjua and another character Khurram Yousaf had started meeting Arshad Malik in February 2019. “They resorted to threatening and blackmailing the judge, which the latter has confirmed in his affidavit. The judge also met Nawaz Sharif at Raiwind, where Nasir Butt again threatened him to toe their line,” he added.He said it seems that the Sharifs are now in a blind alley. “The answer to their tribulations is only with the Islamabad and Lahore high courts, which can set aside their sentences, but for that they [Sharifs] will have to present the money trail of assets abroad,” he said, adding that the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) can investigate the whole scheme of affairs as to how the judge was influenced and the videos were shot.