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April 17, 2018

SC removes Marriyum from committee to name Pemra chairman


April 17, 2018

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Monday removed Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting Marriyum Aurangzeb from the committee constituted by the government to finalise the name of chairman Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) and ordered appointment of Information Secretary Ahmad Nawaz Sukhera in her place.

A three-judge bench of the apex court headed by Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar heard the Media Commission case. Additional Attorney General (AAG) Rana Waqar informed the court that with the approval of the prime minister, the government has constituted a seven-member committee comprising prominent personalities which will finalise the name of chairman Pemra. He said the whole task will be completed within three weeks.

The court, however, replaced Marriyum Aurangzeb with Information Secretary Ahmad Nawaz Sukhera. The chief justice noted that the information minister was busy in giving statements to defend the government, thus it was difficult for her to spare time for the committee. He also noted that the information minister was often criticising the court’s decisions against her leader Nawaz Sharif.

During the proceedings, the AAG stated he was aware that the issues raised by the chief justice will be concluded by him before leaving office in December this year. The chief justice then noted that the Media Commission case was not initiated by him, however, he will dispose of the said case.

The chief justice also noted that the court was showing utmost patience and exercising extreme restraint against the unjust criticism being made against it. He recalled that anti-judiciary slogans were raised by some workers of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), particularly females, outside the Supreme Court building on Friday after the verdict regarding interpretation of Article 62 of the Constitution was announced.

He said those behind these anti-judiciary slogans should themselves come forward instead of hiding behind the women. The Supreme Court in its Friday’s verdict had ruled that disqualification under Article 62(1)(f) of the Constitution was for life. Under the verdict, former prime minister Nawaz Sharif cannot contest elections or hold any public office for whole life.

Apparently hinting towards the ruling party’s electoral symbol ‘lion’, the chief justice said he did not know any lion, however, his fellow judges were his real lions. He said at least respect should be given to the judges equal to that given to the elders.

During the hearing, Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed observed that independence of media was conditional to the independence of judiciary, adding that if judiciary would be weak then the media will also be weak.

Meanwhile, the chief justice summoned Editor-in-Chief of Geo and Jang Group Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman to appear before the court today (Tuesday) and explain why employees of his media group had not been paid their salaries for last three months.

Addressing to Geo TV senior anchorperson Hamid Mir, who is a petitioner in the Media Commission case, the chief justice noted that some reporters had approached him with the complaint that they were getting Rs12,000 salary per month and that too was not being paid to them for last three months.

The chief justice asked Hamid Mir that how someone could manage his budget in Rs12,000. He also asked Hamid Mir to raise his voice for those reporters who were getting such a meagre salary. “Like anchors, reporters too deserve your sympathy and love,” the chief justice said. He said these reporters were the assets of every media house. He said reporters were also assets for the anchorpersons as they conduct their programmes on the basis of news gathered by the reporters.

To a query by the chief justice that how much salary he was receiving from Geo TV, Hamid Mir declined to reply, adding that he also had not been paid the last three months’ salary. Justice Saqib Nisaar noted that according to the record available with him, an anchorperson of a media group is receiving Rs5.2 million per month salary, whereas another one is getting Rs3.2 million per month.

“If Hamid Mir is not paid three-month salary then how his Mercedes will run,” the chief justice remarked. The chief justice added that Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman "can do whatever he wants against me", but that he would have to answer for non-payment of salaries to workers.

On last hearing of the case, Pemra had apprised the court that there were reports that the channels associated with Geo TV Network were off air in various parts of the country at the end of last month, but it (Pemra) had not directed for closure of any channel of Geo TV network.

The court had asked counsel for Geo TV to file a separate petition in this regard. The court adjourned the hearing of the case for two weeks. News Desk adds: Meanwhile, the Jang/Geo Group spokesperson has stated that Geo has been facing continual closure for long periods over the past years. Since four years, particularly Hamid Mir’s incident and besides, Geo faced intermittent shutdowns for a few days. During this ordeal, the Jang/Geo Group did not lay off any employee and kept paying salaries through borrowing. The shutdowns impacted business of the Group which had to resort to banks for loans adding to its financial burden.

In a statement, the spokesperson said the group moved the courts of law against these continual closures and many suits are still pending. The Pemra, the government, and the courts too have not acted in an effective manner to determine the culprit, the spokesperson explained, adding that all this is on record with proof.

The spokesperson maintained that the Group has been striving to pay salaries. The spokesperson said that the honourable Chief Justice of Pakistan had given the TV channels including Geo the April 30 deadline to pay salaries during the previous hearing of the media commission case, but a notice was again taken in Monday’s hearing. During that hearing Geo closure was also mentioned and many Geo journalists were expecting a suo motu notice from the honourable Chief Justice, the spokesperson added. The spokesperson reiterated that the Group is doing its utmost to pay salaries by April 30 as it has been paying, even if late, its employees during shutdowns over these years. The honourable Chief Justice may ask banks to this effect and may also summon Geo record, the spokesperson concluded.

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