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Wednesday January 26, 2022

Blasphemy, treason charges similar to death warrant: IHC CJ asks why channel’s licence may not be revoked

January 08, 2022
Blasphemy, treason charges similar to death warrant: IHC CJ asks why channel’s licence may not be revoked

ISLAMABAD: The private BOL TV Network suffered an upset when it appealed against the PEMRA orders of fine for airing accusations against the Editor-in-Chief Jang Group.

The IHC summoned BOL TV Network’s Chief Executive Shoaib Shaikh in his personal capacity on January 28 in Islamabad, for levelling allegations of blasphemy against Editor-in-Chief Jang Group Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman.

Hearing the appeal by Messrs Labbaik against PEMRA’s order of fine for accusing Editor-in-Chief Jang Group Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman of blasphemy, Chief Justice Islamabad High Court Justice Athar Minallah, while referring to the Sialkot incident, said the blasphemy allegations have put lives in jeopardy. He said such an accusation is like issuing a death warrant and asked why the licence of the channel should not be revoked.

Earlier, Chief Justice Islamabad High Court Justice Athar Minallah asked if the court’s order passed on the last hearing was implemented. The IHC had ordered depositing the fine imposed by PEMRA and by not doing so, the channel had violated the IHC order, the CJ observed.

Counsel for Messrs Labbaik said that the channel had been informed about the court verdict. Chief Justice Athar Minallah said a channel might have a conflict with another channel. But was that appreciable that one channel was levelling the allegation of religious blasphemy against the owner of the other channel? “Had your channel been set up to endanger the lives of others by levelling blasphemy charges against them,” asked the IHC CJ. “It doesn’t happen even in entire world that you endanger others’ lives by levelling such serious allegations against them,” he remarked. It showed that to what extent society had stooped low. “Now you issue treason edicts and level blasphemy of religion charges against others,” remarked the chief justice.

“Where’s PEMRA [Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority]? Can it revoke the licence of the channel?” asked Justice Minallah. The counsel replied that fine was imposed on channels over violation of the code of conduct.

The IHC CJ observed that the fine imposed by PEMRA on the channel did not match the crime it committed. He remarked that levelling treason charges had become so easy. Can any Pakistani be a traitor? “Why not revoke the licence of this channel,” the chief justice remarked. “We talk of freedom of speech and expression for entire media,” he added. “Do you know what was in those appeals? Blasphemy of religion changes were levelled against people.”

On this, PFUJ General Secretary Nasir Zaidi, who was present in the courtroom, said no one should be targeted in the garb of religion. He requested the court to give them a chance to guide them on the issue. He said licence revocation would render thousands of people jobless.

The IHC chief justice said there were some principles for doing everything in the world. “This is a very serious issue. It is good Nasir Zaidi Sahib is also present in the court. When the court asks anybody, you people make it an issue of freedom of expression.

“PEMRA people do not perform their duties diligently. Then what should a court do,” asked the IHC CJ. He remarked that one might go for criticism, but levelling such an allegation was like issuing a death warrant for any person. The CJ recalled that everybody was aware of the Sialkot incident. Later, the court appointed Nasir Zaidi an amicus curiae, summoned owner of BOL TV, Shoaib Shaikh, in person for January 28, and adjourned the hearing.

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