Friday December 01, 2023

UK minister, MPs slam arrest of Jang/Geo Editor-in-Chief

March 15, 2020

LONDON: British lawmakers have condemned the illegal arrest of Jang and Geo’s Editor-in-Chief Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) in a 34-year-old fake case and shutdown of Geo transmission in various parts of Pakistan.

The British government and members of House of Commons and House of Lords called on Pakistani authorities to stop illegal actions against the country’s largest independent media house and let Geo operate without interference from the government.

Lord Tariq Ahmed, UK Minister of State for Foreign Office and Department of International Development (DFID) for South Asian, Commonwealth and United Nations, said: “Very concerned by reports of the arrest of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman, the owner of Jang Media Group in Pakistan. The freedom to hold and express views without censorship, intimidation or unnecessary restriction is a cornerstone of democracy.”

Lord Nazir Ahmed termed Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman’s arrest “illegal” and said the NAB was involved in using the draconian tactics used by the authorities in Soviet Union. He said Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman’s case is unique and vindictive because he was arrested at the preliminary stage of investigation in an alleged white-collar crime dating back nearly four decades in which no illegality or wrongdoing has been proven against him at any forum.

Lord Nazir said: “This means that either you are weak or running a vendetta against him and that’s why you arrest him. Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman should be released immediately and NAB should be reformed. NAB has abused its powers, locked up professors and businessmen and politicians. People are arrested for months, detained for months and no evidence is produced. It doesn’t happen like this anywhere in the world. Pakistan government has to be careful. Media should remain free. The tampering of Geo numbers on cable and shutting down in some parts is unfair. Pakistan will progress when media is free.”

Lord Qurban Hussain said that he stood for human rights in Pakistan. “I want human rights in Pakistan. Everyone should get justice and Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman should get justice too.”

Afzal Khan MP said that the arrest of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman and shutting down of Geo News was a serious concern. He paid tribute to services of Jang and Geo for Pakistan and the democratic process. He said media is needed for accountability and it was right of media to ask tough questions. He said media should be given free environment to operate and should not be targeted by the government authorities.

Naz Shah MP said she was aware that Editor-in-Chief of Jang and Geo has been arrested and Geo channel has been shut down in several parts of the country. She said that a healthy media is needed for the progress of a healthy country. She called on the government to address concerns of the media. “A strong press is a guarantor of democracy and liberties and without accountability and freedom of the press there is no development. Free media is crucial for democracy, especially in countries like Pakistan.”

Yasmeen Qureshi MP, who chairs all Pakistan Parliamentary Group on Pakistan, expressed alarm at the shutting down of Geo News on instructions of Pemra. She said Geo is the oldest established newspaper of Pakistan. “Millions of people watch Geo in UK, Pakistan and elsewhere. The arrest of the Chief Executive Officer of the paper, I hope, will not impact the opportunity of the people to watch Geo and read Jang newspaper.”

Britain’s first turban-wearing Sikh MP Tan Dhesi, who represents thousands of Pakistani and Kashmiri voters from Slough, said the arrest of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman was alarming and called on Prime Minister Imran Khan to restore Geo’s transmissions. He said Geo News is the voice of Kashmiris and Pakistanis and always raised the issue of occupied Kashmir and other issues close to the heart of Pakistani and Kashmiri community. He said Geo has been providing a valuable service to the community and remains the best platform for the community.

The Sikh MP said that Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman’s arrest in 34 years old case is unacceptable. He said he will raise the issue with Britain’s Foreign Secretary and in Parliament to take it up with Pakistani government.”

Ziauddin Yousufzai said he felt saddened at the arrest of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman. “I believe that his arrest is based on political revenge and its malafide. Mr Rahman has a huge contribution in Pakistan’s media. It’s unfortunate that he is being kept in illegal custody. Free media is the soul of democracy and without free media there is no difference between dictatorship and democracy. It’s clear Shakil-ur-Rahman has been arrested for political revenge.”

Muhammad Yasin MP said that Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman’s arrest at the verification stage was unbelievable and does not set a good precedent. He said: “Mr Rahman has the full right to defend himself. I believe that his arrest without any proof is not a good step and will not prove to be a wise decision. He deserves justice and I hope he will get justice from the courts.”

Elaina Cohen, Parliamentary Secretary of Khalid Mehmood MP who has been to Pakistan on several occasion, said the arrest of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman is a power grab and blatant attack on Pakistani media freedom. She said Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman’s arrest and shut down of Geo would damage Pakistan in eyes of the world.