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Web Desk
February 4, 2021

Justice Qazi Faez Isa questions state of media freedom in Pakistan


Web Desk
Thu, Feb 04, 2021

ISLAMABAD: Supreme Court judge Justice Qazi Faez Isa criticised the state of media freedom, democracy and governance in Pakistan during an apex court hearing on local government elections on Thursday.

The senior judge said he won’t shy away from saying that the media is not free and that it is being controlled, with real journalists being thrown out of the country.

Pakistan, he said, is being destroyed in a systematic manner. He said when media is destroyed, a country is destroyed.

"Tell me. Is media free in Pakistan?" Justice Isa asked Attorney-General Khalid Javed Khan.

The attorney-general requested the judge to give an option of answering other than a yes or no, to which Justice Isa offered that a referendum should be held with the media persons present in the court room.

He said the media in the court should raise their hands if they think the media is free.

When no journalist raised their hand, the judge asked the journalists to raise their hand if they think there was freedom of press in the country.

Yet again, no journalist raised their hand.

He gave the analogy of a plant, asking if a seed planted in the morning ought to be uprooted in the evening just to see how strong its roots have become.

Justice Maqbool Baqir, another member of the SC bench hearing the case, said judges should ideally avoid such comments, but what can be done when the country itself is not in an ideal situation.

"How long can judges remain silent?" Justice Baqir asked.

Justice Isa said every opposition leader is being described as a traitor and every supporter of the government is being described as a patriot.

The top court judge said those who have deprived the media of its freedoms must go to jail.

Punjab local government system

The SC judge questioned how Punjab could have dissolved its local government before expiry of its term.

He said provinces start listing down their problems when the LG polls are near. The judge said Punjab had killed democracy by dissolving the local government.

"Local governments were dissolved in the martial law era, but it is unheard of in a democracy," the judge said.

He asked if Punjab was in the mood to abolish the LG system. To this, the Punjab additional advocate-general said a new law had been made for local governments in the province.

By dissolving the local government, the Punjab government has clearly violated the Constitution, Justice Isa said, adding that, like this, Punjab can continue dissolving local governments till a government of its choice comes along.

If democracy is lost, half the country will be gone, he warned.

"ECP says there will be huge cost of Rs18 billion on local bodies elections," Justice Isa remarked. "Yet huge development funds are being released for politicians."

'Why couldn't a decision be taken on census from 2017 till 2021?'

Justice Isa also questioned the delay in finalising the results of the 2017 census. 

The AGP said that the census was conducted in 2017, but a final notification had yet to be issued on it. To this, Justice Isa questioned if everyone had gone to sleep after 2017.

The attorney-general told the court that Sindh and others had objections over the census so the federal government made a committee on it.

The senior judge questioned why no decision could be taken on the census from 2017 till 2021.