Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Information Secretary Marriyum Aurangzeb on Monday said that the opposition parties have filed a petition in the Islamabad High Court (IHC) against the arrest of Geo and Jang Group owner Mir Shakilur Rehman.
In a statement, Marriyum said the PML-N, Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) and Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) collectively filed the petition in public interest.
میری داستان حسرت وہ سنا سنا کر روئے
میرے آزمانے والے مجھکو آزما کر روئے
— Hamid Mir حامد میر (@HamidMirPAK) March 16, 2020
Interestingly, Pakistan Union of Journalists decided not to support Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman and did not call for protest.
Marriyum said the petition pleads that freedom of expression and the right to information is an essential part of Article 17 of the constitution. She said media is the fourth pillar of the state and the freedom of expression is the basic foundation of a free nation. Articles 4, 9, 10A, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19 and 19A are the custodian of the right to freedom of expression, the petition argues. It states that in a democratic country, freedom of expression and freedom of the media are an essential condition and component of democracy.
The petition maintains that NAB violated the constitution to arrest the head of the largest media group of the country, adding that Rehman’s arrest has a specific context because he was being constantly pressured to stop criticism of NAB.
“The media house was under extreme pressure over Shahzeb Khanzada’s program but Shakeel did not bow to the pressure,” Marriyum said, adding that NAB arrested Rehman even though he had provided all required documents regarding the land allotment.
She claimed that the federal government and PEMRA blocked Geo’s broadcast after Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan’s press conference on March 13, adding that the position of the channel was also pushed back.
Mir Shakilur Rahman, Editor-in-chief of Geo/Jang Group, was arrested in Lahore by the NAB on March 12. Nawazish Ali, NAB spokesperson say’s media tycoon’s arrest has been in a case pertaining to the clandestine allotment of a 54-kanal piece of land in 1986 – from the then government of CM Nawaz Sharif.
NAB had been conducting an inquiry against him in the fraudulent activity. His arrest came after he failed to submit a satisfactory reply to the bureau’s questions, said NAB.
He is accused of acquiring exemption on 54 plots in Johar Town, Lahore in 1986 during former then Chief Minister Nawaz Sharif’s term.
However, sources close to the Prime Minister Imran Khan has revealed that PM is displeased and puzzled due to the sudden arrest of Mir Shakilur Rehman.
GEO supports PML-N?
It is worth noting that the same media house has been accused of supporting Nawaz Sharif, and opposing the PTI. As a matter of fact, back in 2018, the SC reportedly grilled the Capital Development Authority (CDA) for its inability to regulate property/land. The apex court also emphasized on payment of property regularisation fee during the hearing. The top judge had reportedly distanced himself from those remarks, explaining that the court had been referring to the CDA in the Banigala case, not the government, and issued notices to the publications.
The News and GEO misreported the matter saying “the PTI-led government has no plan and capabilities to run the affairs of the state.” During the yesterday’s hearing Jang Editor Hanif Khalid, who was present in court, was asked by then Chief Justice Saqib Nisar to explain how his remarks were misreported and published, and then debated on television later that night.
The then CJP also reminded the editor of the fact that their reporter did not come to the court. “Your reporter does not even come to court. You want institutions to clash with each other,” the CJP remarked. The top judge, irked by the irresponsible reporting, further asked: “Are we sitting here to harm institutions?” Justice Ijazul Ahsan said: “Why is it only your organization that misreports stories? You report the news wrong and then join your hands in forgiveness the next day.”
The opposition and particularly PML-N took up the matter and criticized the government just after the remarks by the CJP were misreported. The top judge advised the media houses to refrain from indulging in petty politics and malicious campaigns against the sitting government at the cost of greater instability in the country. The representatives of The News and Jang agreed not to publish any news irresponsibly. But as a matter of fact, the misreporting of top judge’s remarks by the Geo exposed the publication and its hidden political agenda.