Countrywide protests: Cross-section of society joins journalists in demanding Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman’s release

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Countrywide protests: Cross-section of society joins journalists in demanding Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman’s release

ISLAMABAD: The countrywide protest day against the illegal arrest of Editor-in-Chief of Geo and Jang Group, Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman, was observed across the country and politicians, lawyers, journalists, doctors, para-medical staff, traders and labourers participated in it, expressing solidarity with the workers of Jang-Geo group.

The countrywide protest day was observed on Thursday at the call of the Joint Action Committee of workers of Geo-Jang Group against the illegal arrest of Editor-in-Chief of Geo and Jang Group Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman. Addressing the protest outside the Geo offices in Islamabad, ex-Federal Minister and President PML-N Islamabad Dr Tariq Fazal said the arrest of Editor-in-Chief of Geo and Jang Group Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman was reflective of the government’s victimization policy and to suppress independent media. He said the chairman NAB violated the NAB’s law that banned the arrest of anyone at the complaint verification stage and it is an example of misuse of the power. “The PML-N will continue to support the journalists’ struggle for the release of Editor-in-Chief of Geo and Jang Group Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman and for the freedom of media,” he said. President PML-N Women wing Senator Nuzhat Amir said the name Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman symbolises the country’s journalism and the world respects him for his independent editorial policies.

Renowned anchorperson and seasoned journalist Hamid Mir said during the Coronavirus pandemic, the journalists have given a clear message to the world that wherever there was injustice, political workers and journalists will protest against injustice. Mir saidrenowned international intellectual Noam Chomsky has raised his voice in support of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman. “The national and international intellectuals stood with the editor-in-chief of Geo and Jang Group Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman because he always campaigned for the voiceless people,” he said. “Without a free press, no institution can flourish in the country,” he said and added that those who arrested him have negated the Quaid-e-Azam’s ideology for the freedom of press. Hamid Mir said the rulers are violating the Pakistan ideology in their war with the independent media.

Secretary General Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists Nasir Zaidi said all the global media organizations are declaring the arrest of Editor-in-Chief of Geo and Jang Group Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman as an attack on the freedom of media. Ex-president PFUJ Afzal Butt said whenever the media faced difficult times, the trade unions of the country stood together with the media. He said the issue is not merely the arrest of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman, but of the larger issue of the freedom of media. Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman was asked to terminate specific journalists from the group but he refused to bow, he said. He said the government deliberately created a financial crisis for the media and if Mir Shakil-ur-Rehman had accepted the demands of the government, then he would have been given advertisements.

Chairman Wapda Hydroelectric Union Javed Baloch said the NAB has not even begun investigating those who illegally used the state helicopter. He said if Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman was not released immediately, then more than 15,000 workers will join the workers of the Jang-Geo Group in their just cause. Secretary General of CDA Union Chaudhry Yasin said muting the media only means restricting the democracy as free media ensures democracy. Ex-president National Press Club Shakil Anjum said the present government has a double face as they claim that they believe in democracy but in reality they follow dictatorial policies.

Secretary General RIUJ Asif Ali Bhatti said the illegal arrest of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman shows the rulers do not want the citizens to be informed about the truth. Senior Correspondent of Jang and ex-President Jang Workers Union Rana Ghulam Qadir, senior sports correspondent The News Abdul Mohi Shah and Mehtab Haider said the role of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman for the freedom of the media was more than any one else. Senior correspondent of Geo News Amina Aamir, Nausheen Yousaf said not only the journalists organizations but trade unions also stood with the Editor-in-Chief of Geo and Jang Group Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman.

President Young Doctors Association Dr Asfandyar said the media always stood with the doctors and in this difficult time, we also express solidarity with the media. Chairman Joint Action Committee and President Jang Workers Union Nasir Chishti announced to continue the protest till the release of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman.

Participating in the Jang-Geo Group protests in Karachi against the continued detention of MSR, lawyers said the National Accountability Bureau must immediately withdraw the orders of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman’s arrest and release him respectfully. They said any curbs on media will not be tolerated. Former president Supreme Court Bar Association’s Yaseen Azad said that Jang-Geo is Pakistan’s biggest media group.

“We will not accept any curbs on the media,” he said and demanded the NAB to release Rahman. “Pakistan’s 220 million population along with journalists and lawyers will protest against the curbs on Jang and Geo,” he said. Besides Azad, senior advocate Salahuddin Gandapur, Rehmat Mir, Karachi Press Club’s Imtiaz Faran, PFUJ former secretary Mazhar Abbas, APNEC general secretary Shakil Yamin Kanga, Geo’s Karachi Bureau chief Fahim Siddiqui, members of joint action committee Saeed Mohi Uddin Pasha, Dara Zafar and Rana Muhammad Yousuf, Geo’s senior anchorpersons Shahzeb Khanzada, Shahzad Iqbal and Yahya Hussaini also addressed the Jang-Geo protest camp in Karachi.

In Peshawar, people from various sections of the society continued to turn up at the ongoing protest camps and rallies by the media workers in various parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to demand the release of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman. The workers of Daily Jang, Geo and The News continued to stage the camp outside their offices which was in its 11th day. Most of those who visited the camp were from the business community, followed by lawyers and others segments. Those who spoke on the occasion were a senior leader of the United Business Group of Pakistan, Ilyas Ahmad Bilour, Sarhad Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SCCI) President Maqsood Anwar Pervaiz, Senior Vice President Shahid Hussain, Zahidullah Shinwari, Malik Niaz Ahmad, Sajjad Aziz, Sartaj Khan, Peshawar High Court Bar Association General Secretary Abid Ali, Vice-President Ali Zaman and others.

The participants were holding banners and placards inscribed with slogans that condemned the arrest of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman, attacks by the government on the media freedom and economic murder of journalists. Ilyas Ahmad Bilour termed the arrest of Mir Shakil a nexus between the government and NAB. The senior businessman demanded that Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman should be freed forthwith. Bilour, who has remained a senator in the past a number of times, said the so-called accountability was one-sided. He asked why the anti-corruption body was silent over mega scandals such as Billion Tree Tsunami, Bus Rapid Transit and the recent flour and sugar scams. SCCI President Maqsood Anwar Pervaiz said rules were not followed while arresting Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman. He said the chamber was with the journalist community in its struggle for free media and demanded the release of the Jang Group editor-in-chief.

In Abbottabad, media workers staged a protest to urge the government to release forthwith Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman. Led by the Abbottabad Press Club President Mohammad Aamer Shahzad Jadoon, the protesters were carrying banners and placards inscribed with slogans in favour of their demands. They raised slogans against the PTI government and the NAB after accusing both of implicating Mir Shakil in a 34-year-old property case. Abbottabad Press Club President Aamir Shahzad Jadoon, Electronic Media Association President Tahir Hussain Shah, General Secretary Haroon Tanoli, Finance Secretary, Abbottabad Union of Journalists, Dildar Ahmad Satti and others also criticized the government for arresting Mir Shakil and termed it an attack on the press freedom.

In Mansehra, people from different walks of life gathered at the Mansehra Press Club to demand the release of Mir Shakil. They raised slogans demanding immediate release of the Jang Group chief. Speaking on the occasion, PML-N central senior vice-president Sardar Mohammad Yousuf said his party would not allow the government to undermine sanctity and independence of media through such unjustified tactics. In Timergara, the Lower Dir journalist community, traders, legal fraternity and political workers from various parties staged a protest at the Timergara Press Club against the arrest of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman and demanded his release. They carried banners and placards. The journalists from the Tank district staged a protest and sit-in to condemn the arrest of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman and demanded his release. The protesters took out a procession from the Tank Press Club and later staged the sit-in. In Wana, the members of the Kaniguram Press Club protested as well as flayed the action against Mir Shakil and demanded his release from the NAB custody. In Mingora, the journalist community of the Swat district staged a protest against the government for arresting the Jang, The News and Geo Editor-in-Chief Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman and restrictions on free press. In Charsadda, the journalist community protested the arrest of Mir Shakil and demanded his release forthwith. Charsadda Press Club President Sabz Ali Tareen led the protest. Sabz Ali Tareen in his speech came down hard on the government for the action against the Jang Group in particular and free media in general. In Takhtbhai, the journalist fraternity condemned the NAB for arresting Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman in a 34-year-old concocted case. The speakers condemned the arrest of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman and demanded his release.

In Multan, the PML-N activists led by PML-N Punjab vice-president Bilal Butt, Malik Anwar, Sheikh Athar Mumtaz and Munir Langah paid a solidarity visit to the protest camp set up against the arrest of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman and said that the government was using the NAB as a tool against the Jang-Geo Group. PML-N Punjab vice-president Bilal Butt criticised the NAB for arresting Mir Shakil at the complaint verification stage. PML-N leader Malik Anwar condemned the detention of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman and said that the government was crushing the free media.

In Sialkot, a cross section of politicians, traders, civil society activists and journalists staged a demonstration against the arrest of Mir Shakil at Chowk Allama Iqbal. Journalists Junaid Aftab, Mian Naeem Iqbal, Hamid Kahloon, Umar Ejaz, Salim Chand, Gulzar Ahmed, Sh Amjad Jamil and Asif Khan, PPP leader Ch Zahid Bashir, Sialkot District Bar Association former president Shahid Mir, Markazi Anjuman-e-Tajran president Mehr Ghulam Mujtaba, general secretary Javed Haider and others took part in the demonstration. The demonstrators termed the arrest of Mir Shakil illegal and illogical. They said the rulers were targeting Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman because of his fearlessness and unbiased criticism of the government’s inept policies.

In Bahawlapur, the Jang, Geo News and The News Workers Action Committee of Bahawalpur along with Bahawalpur Union of Journalists (BhUJ), hawkers union, lawyers and politicians staged a demonstration against the illegal detention of Mir Shakil on Thursday. They expressed solidarity with Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman. PML-N former MPA Fauzia Ayub Qureshi, Tehreek Bahali Soba Bahawalpur campaigner Aasia Kamil, JUI-F Punjab Shoora member Allama Shafqatur Rehman, PPP leaders Malik Muhammad Imtiaz Channar also participated in the demonstration.The journalists from Ahmadpur East, Uch Sharif, Samasatta and adjoining areas also participated in the protest.

In Gujranwala, the journalists staged a demonstration against the arrest of Jang-Geo Group Editor-in-Chief Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman while leaders of PML-N, PPP, Jamaat-e-Islami, lawyers and traders participated in it. Addressing the protesters, former federal minister MNA Khurram Dastgir Khan and others strongly condemned the arrest of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman and said the government should focus its energies on combating the deadly coronavirus instead of committing political victimisation.

In Kasur, a protest against the arrest of Jang-Geo Group Editor-in-Chief was organised at the Baldia Chowk. Lawyers, traders and journalists participated in the protest. They chanted slogans against the government and demanded immediate release of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman. In Rahimyar Khan, the journalists were joined by PPP, PML-N and JUI activists in the protest against the arrest of Mir Shakil.

The Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists, the Punjab Union of Journalists, members of the Lahore Press Club, representatives of civil society, bar associations, PML-N and Jamaat-e-Islami joined hands with the employees of the Jang-Geo Group protesting against the arrest of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman in Lahore. Maintaining social distancing due to the coronavirus pandemic, they protested outside the Jang offices, holding placards and demanding the release of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman. The demonstrators raised slogans against the government’s clampdown on the media. They chanted slogans for the freedom of media and the release of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman. The protest was led by PUJ President Qamar-uz-Zaman Bhatti, Senior Vice President Khurram Pasha and General Secretary Khwaja Aftab Hassan. Qamar-uz-Zaman Bhatti warned if the government does not release Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman, it will become a movement. Addressing the protest, PFUJ Treasurer Zulfiqar Ali Mehto said that today, the PFUJ stands with the Jang-Geo Group. PUJ General Secretary Khwaja Aftab said daily protests would be held till the release of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman. Joint Secretary Atiyah Zaidi, Joint Secretary Nasrallah Malik, President of Photo journalists Association Iqbal Chaudhry, General Secretary Pervez Altaf, Vice President of Lahore Press Club Qazzafi Butt also attended the protest. Prominent among those who spoke on the occasion included Sohail Warraich, Hasan Nisar, Ataul Haq Qasmi, Hafeezullah Niazi, Saleem Bokhari, Shaheen Qureshi, Baidar Bakht Butt, Arshad Ansari, PML-N leaders Parvaiz Malik, MNA Shaista Pervaiz Malik, and Mian Aslam.

Protests were also held in Ghotki, Obaru, Rajanpur, Badin and Chaman against the arrest of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman. The participants were of the opinion that Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman was arrested without a transparent trial and has been kept in solitary confinement for over a month, which is a human rights violation. With the arrest of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman, the NAB has lost its credibility. Despite the passage of one month, it has neither started a proper trial nor charged him yet.

Newspaper: The News