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Media bodies, politicians, civil society condemn MSR’s arrest

By our correspondents
March 14, 2020

ISLAMABAD: Media bodies, politicians and civil society Friday condemned the arrest of Editor-in-Chief of Geo and Jang Group Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman by the NAB and termed it an attack on the freedom of press and demanded his immediate release.

Ex-chairman Senate Mian Raza Rabbani condemned the arrest of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman and said it is an attack on media and an attempt to silence any voice of dissent. “The arrest by the NAB is in violation of principles laid down in the judgement of Islamabad High Court delivered few days back,” he said. The Peshawar High Court Bar Association (PHCBA) also condemned the arrest of MSR and demanded his immediate release.

The central and provincial leaders of various political parties and dissidents members of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) have condemned the arrest of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman and termed it an attack on the independent press, which exposed government-NAB nexus.

They observed that after political victimisation of the opponents, the government has now started arresting journalists to strangulate the fourth pillar of state and stop them from exposing the corrupt leaders. The political leaders said the rulers were disturbed for being exposed and they have now started using cheap tactics against journalists after politicians. They said the rulers should reform themselves instead of getting provoked and gagging the independent press.

Qaumi Watan Party (QWP) leaders Aftab Ahmad Khan Sherpa, Sikandar Sherpao, Awami National Party (ANP) leader Farid Toofan, Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz leaders, Pir Sabir Shah, Iqbal Zafar Jhagra, Murtaza Javed Abbasi, Amir Muqam, Abdus Subhan Khan, Ikhtiar Wali Khan, Rashid Mahmud Khan, Khanimullah Khan, senior tribal leader, Syed Wali Shah Afridi, provincial leader, Mazdoor Kisan Party, Afzal Khamoosh, provincial president, national Party, Mukhtiar Bacha, provincial president, Awami Worker Party, Haidar Zaman, Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), leaders Sher Azam Wazir, Liaquat Shabab, Syed Abid Ali Shah, Sartaj Khan Doranpur, Syed Iftikhar Ali Shah of Akbarpura and dissidents PTI leaders Ahmad Zada Khan, Syed Haidar Ali Shah Bacha, former Home secretary, Syed Akhtar Ali Shah, and others observed that it is the basic responsibility of the press to expose wrongdoings and corruption of the government but the government tried to suppress the voice of journalists and media.

The political leaders said arresting Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman, imposing curbs on the print and electronic media, slashing government’s ads, and arresting journalists were an attack on the independent press, which showed the fears of the rulers.

They accused Prime Minister Imran Khan of acting like a martial law administrator and victimising every person, who tried to raise voice against the government.

By arresting Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman in the case of a property that he had purchased some 34 years back, they said, the government was giving an impression that Nawaz Sharif had gifted it to Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman when he was a chief minister.

The opposition leaders recalled the then prime minister Nawaz Sharif had also donated land to Imran Khan for setting up Shaukat Khanum Cancer Memorial Hospital and Research Centre in Lahore and the NAB should also constitute a case against Imran Khan.

Instead of victimising politicians and journalists, they said the government should also hold those accountable who illegally used government helicopters, misused funds in Bus Rapid Transit Billion Tsunami Tree and those involved in the Malam Jabba scandals.

Meanwhile, QWP Chairman Aftab Ahmad Khan Sherpao condemned the arrest of Editor-in-Chief of Geo and Jang Group by NAB and termed it an attack on the freedom of the press.

According to a statement issued from Watan Kor, he said that the arrest of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman had exposed the true face of the PTI government. He said that the government had also stopped placing advertisements with the Jang Group and Dawn newspaper, which amounted to stifle the freedom of the press.

Aftab Sherpao said that his party condemned such tactics on part of the PTI government. “Withholding the advertisements of Jang Group and Dawn will render hundreds of journalists jobless,” he deplored, urging the government not to take such steps.

The QWP leader said the PTI government had failed to deliver on its pledges, therefore, it had resorted to such tactics to muzzle the press. “The government wants to silence the leading media houses in a bid to hide its incompetence,” he remarked.

He added that the government was using NAB as a tool for victimisation. However, he maintained that the government would not be able to prevent the media from telling the truth and keeping the people informed.

Meanwhile, the journalists on Friday staged rallies across Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to condemn arrest of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman.

Speaking at a protest meeting, Peshawar Press Club President Syed Bukhar Shah termed the arrest a bid to gag the press.

“The government is using all possible means to intimidate the press,” he said, adding, Prime Minister Imran Khan used to talk high of media as an opposition leader but he is using the state apparatus to silence independent press after coming into power.

He urged media houses to shun differences and work for an independent media, which was sine qua non for democracy in the country. Bukhar Shah said a big rally would be staged today (Saturday) to condemn the arrest.

The Swabi Electronic Media Association members condemned the arrest of Jang Group Editor-in-Chief and demanded his release.

Muhammad Farooq, president of the association and Azmat Ali, general secretary said that the arrest of Mir Shakeel-ur-Rahman by NAB in the 34-year-old property case was aimed at keeping the media under control. Muhammad Farooq said that an independence press was need of the hour for a democratic order. He said the entire journalist community stood by the Jang Group and opposed the pressure tactics of the government.

The journalists in Charsadda also staged a protest to condemn arrest of Mir Shakeel-ur-Rahman. Speaking on the occasion, Sabaz Ali Tareen and others said the government was harassing journalists to hide its own failure.

Bannu Press Club President Muhammad Alam Khan termed arrest an attack on media freedom. He said the action was meant to silence the Jang Group which was following an independent media policy. Protest rallies were also staged in Chitral, Dir, Swat, Mardan and other districts of the province.

Meanwhile, cormer prime minister Yusuf Raza Gilani strongly condemned the arrest of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman.

Talking to reporters, the former PM said the detention of Mir Shakil is a direct and brutal attack on freedom of the press. He said the arrest of Mir Shakil has shaken the media across the country.

Journalists of Faisalabad also strongly condemned the arrest of Jang/Geo Group Editor-in-Chief Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman.

In their separate statements, office-bearers of Faisalabad Press Club and different journalists’ bodies termed the arrest of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman as highly unjustifiable act.

They said Mir Shakil was detained in a case filed 34 years ago and he had already given proofs of the payment of government duty and taxes on the purchased property.

FPC president Zafar Dogar, secretary Ashfaq Hashimi, ex-president Maqbul Ahmed Lodhi, central additional secretary Jawaid Siddiqui, APNEC secretary Sardar Akhtar condemned the arrest of Mir Shakil.

Meanwhile, FPC secretary Ashfaq Hashimi announced a protest on Saturday (today) along with members of Faisalabad Union of Journalists and other working journalists against the arrest of the Editor-in-Chief of Jang/Geo Group. They demanded immediate and unconditional release of Mir Shakil.

PPP senior leader in Sialkot Ch Zahid Bashir has termed the arrest of Jang/Geo Editor-in-Chief Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman as unjust and illogical.

While talking to newsmen at his office on Friday, Ch Zahid Bashir said that Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman was a loyal and responsible citizen of the country and his arrest was quite unnecessary as he was fully cooperating with the NAB investigators.

Meanwhile, PML-N senior local leader Mirza Aurangzeb, Amsal Zaman Zeb and Mirza Kashif also condemned the arrest of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman. The president and general secretary of Anjuman-e-Tajran Paris Road Amir Khan and Faisal Khawar Butt said that the arrest of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman indicates that the rulers were not willing to tolerate any voice from any corner of the society.

In Bahawalpur, journalists of different organisations held protest meetings against Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman. Journalists organised meetings in Bahawalpur, Bahawalnagar and Rahimyar Khan districts and their tehsils and condemned the arrest of Mir Shakil.

Bahawalpur Press Club president Naseer Ahmed Nasir and Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists Ameen Abbasi staged a peaceful protest in the press Club, condemning the arrest of Mir Shakil. They said the arrest of Mir Shakil is actually an attack on the freedom of the media. Bahawlpur Union of Journalists secretary Rashid Aziz Hashmi demanded immediate release of Mir Shakil. In Ahmadpur East, journalists staged a peaceful protest in Ahmadpur East and demanded immediate release of Mir Shakil.

Journalists of Liaqatpur, Chishtian, Bahawalnagar, Haroonabad, Hasilpur and Khairpur Tamiwali also condemned the detention of Mir Shakil.

Press Club Pakpattan office-bearers and journalists of other media organisations Friday strongly condemned the arrest of Jang Group Editor-in-Chief.

Journalists Murad Assam, Qazi Akmal, Qazi Ashraf, Milk Muhammad Ali, Muhammad Asad and others said this is unjustifiable act of the government that Mir Shakil was arrested in a 34 year old case. They demanded his immediate and unconditional release.

Meanwhile, members of another journalist body including Chaudhry Umaar, Nayyar Jamail Butt, Arshad Khan and others urged the higher authorities concerned to release Mir Shakil.

In different statements on Friday, the office-bearers of Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ), Rana Azeem and Zulfiqar Mehtoo, PUJ’s Shahzad Butt, Ashraf Majeed, Qamar Zaman Bhatti, Khwaja Aftab, Punjab Assembly Press Gallery Committee President Mian Aslam, Secretary Faizan Bangash, Lahore Press Club office-bearers Arshad Ansari, Babar Dogar, Qazzafi Butt, Hafiz Faiz Ahmad, Zahid Sherwani, Lahore Photo Journalists Association office-bearers Iqbal Chaudhry, Pervaiz Altaf, ENCA leaders Malik Iqbal, Rizwan Anwar, Media Freedom Association of Pakpattan, Press Club Jhang, Jhang Union of Journalists leaders Liaquat Ali, Khurram Saeed, Musab Farooq, Regional Union of Journalists, Zafarwal Press Club President Samiullah, Asad Qureshi, Shahpur journalist leaders Akhtar Hussain Hashmi, Amjad Javed Raja, Safdar Hussain, Azhar Hussain, Sarai Mughal Press Club leaders Nabeel Rafaqat, Kanganpur journalists leaders Dr Rasheed Ahmad Khokhar, Dr Rehmatullah, Ch Irfan Yusuf Sidhu, Gojra Press Club and Gojra Sports Journalists Association office-bearers said that the NAB is acting on the government directives to suppress the voice of media.

They said the PTI government has exposed its anti-freedom of expression agenda. They said the Jang/Geo Group owners had been receiving threats for many months. Their advertisements were also blocked.

All media associations have announced holding a meeting at the Lahore Press Club on Saturday (today) to chalk out a future strategy.