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February 27, 2020

Pemra officials threatened, detained at gunpoint by anchor slapped with fine

Top Story

February 27, 2020

ISLAMABAD: On February 13, a top official at Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) found his mobile phone ringing. An anchor was calling at his WhatsApp number. He was in Pemra’s Lahore office, which he had stormed while “shouting and directing his companions to seal the premises and close the doors of office and that no one should be allowed to enter or exit.”

Three police guards deputed for security of the anchor helped him in occupying the Lahore office. Two persons in plain clothes were also accompanying the anchor who had come in a Toyota Corolla car bearing green number plate. He further shouted asking for CCTV cameras and instructed his men to confiscate them.

As the hostage-taking was in progress, Regional General Manager of Pemra Lahore came out of his room to request the annoying anchor to come and sit with him to discuss his grievance if there is any. The anchor followed RGM to his room, ordered his police guards to lock it from inside and stay alert with the weapons. Finally, RGM was also made hostage along with his two guests. It was from there, the anchor rang to a top Pemra official in Islamabad. As the call was connected, the anchor turned on speaker of his phone.

“Do you want to continue your job or not,” the anchor asked the top official. “Yes, I want to continue,” was the reply. Second question, “If I ask you to delegate me all of your powers, whether you will do that or not.” The answer, “I will do that.” Third question, “If I put your phone on hold for an hour, if you will wait for me or disconnect the call.” The answer, “I will wait.”

This followed requests from the top official who wanted the anchor to forgive Pemra and that the action taken against him was just by mistake. The top official further promised that he will visit Lahore to personally apologise from the anchor. The conversation ended after this reassurance and Lahore Pemra RGM was silent spectator during this course of crisis.

For a background, Pemra’s Council of Complaints had fined the anchor Rs500,000 while taking action on the complaint of two provincial ministers. The anchor had alleged them of corrupt practices in his TV programme but failed to prove. Pemra chairman had approved the decision of fine and it was delivered to the anchor on the day he attacked at Pemra office in retaliation instead of seeking any legal remedy against the decision.

As the matter was “resolved” after assurance of a top Pemra official, the anchor decided to celebrate it at Pemra’s Lahore office where he remained from 3:00pm to 6:00pm. He ordered the accompanying men in plain clothes to go for buying 10 pizzas who did accordingly. As they were brought at the Pemra’s Lahore office, the persons present there ate pizzas and the anchor apologised for any “inconvenience.” However, he didn’t forget to let the hostage staff know about the powers he enjoys. Taking names of high ups in judiciary and security agencies, he “tried to give an impression that he is very influential and he also got the support of all the named institutions,” RGM Ikram Barkat noted in a written report sent to Pemra chairman.

“He also told us that he has powers given by the Supreme Court of Pakistan to seal any premises and office and he has the seals available in his vehicles to do so…For reference, he quoted an incident where he sealed a hospital for three days. He also asked about cell number of chairperson council of complaints. He further said that it is in his hand to revalidate the appointment period of council members and he will see whether their tenure is to be revalidated or not,” read RGM’s report which is being treated as a top secret. So much that anchor’s name has not been given in it and the report was delivered in person by RGM to chairman.

“It is further informed that the said journalist/anchor called on his cell phone…During conversation he again talked a few mixed and ambiguous things and categorically asked him ‘Maza aya aaj (hope you enjoyed today).’…Some of the conversations of the event (both audio & video), recorded through mobile phones are also enclosed for ready reference…There are many things/conversation which he even cannot write in order to protect dignity and honor of the organisation and higher posts; however he can inform everything in person,” reads the report.