Imran’s allegations against journalists: Facts or fiction?

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I wish Imran Khan would have gone through the petition 105/2012 filed in the Supreme Court (SC) by two senior journalists, Hamid Mir and Absar Alam, before accusing journalists, anchors and columnists for corruption.

But the biggest dilemma of the leader of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) has been that he heavily depends on ‘ill- informed’ media advisers and never applied his own mind before giving such statements.

In the last 34 days at the D-Chowk or Dharna Chowk, he has made so many blunders while accusing people that it often caused an embarrassment to his own party. He made similar kind of mistakes in his interviews before and after the May 2013 elections.

During his Dharna, his best part time hobby is to attack on Geo and Jang Group and the best part-time hobby of his ‘Tiger Force’ is to beat or harass journalists, including female staffers, pelt stones on Geo building, etc.

On the other hand, the police, instead of providing protection, picked their own targets and attacked journalists, mostly belonging to different private TV channels, which is most deplorable.

If the allegations come from a national leader like Imran Khan, it is serious, even if it has no basis or the leader does not have any evidence. But, if he has, I would request him to make it public and then file a petition in the Supreme Court and take legal action against them.

Similar kind of allegations were leveled in June 2012 when a list of 19 journalists was circulated with unnamed source and they were accused of getting plots from the Bahria Town.

Hamid Mir and Absar Alam did the right thing by filing a petition in the Supreme Court and offered themselves for “accountability.” Later, some other journalists named in the list also joined the petition, including myself and Asma Sherazi.

We also took a position that let the Ministry of Information’s “Secret Fund” be abolished and whoever was paid from this fund, his or her name should be made public.

The two-member SC bench not only took up the matter but as a result, appointed a two-member commission headed by Justice (retd) Nasir Aslam Zahid and former information minister Javed Jabbar to look into this matter and come up with recommendations.

The commission’s comprehensive report is also a part of the court record and also available in “book form,” if Imran wants to read it. All those who really want to make this profession clean from all kinds of dirt must also read this report.

The court also sought the details of the secret fund from the minister of information, and one such list may still be available on the SC website and is part of the court record in the petition Hamid Mir-Absar Alam vs. Federation of Pakistan.

As a result of this petition, the information ministry’s “Secret Fund” was abolished. I would be more than happy if the Ministry of Information was abolished like in many democratic countries.

This is the maximum a journalist can do and I must congratulate Hamid Mir and Absar Alam on taking such a bold stance.But, now once again, Imran, a national leader, believes whoever is critical of him and his politics and Dharna are “paid” by the government or intelligence agencies. So, now he should provide solid evidence like a true leader. He also claimed that government advertisements worth 100,000 crore were released since the Dharna to pro-government print and electronic media.

Imran should also assess the credentials of the people who had provided him such “information,” may be in order to save their own neck.Allegations of corruption against journalists are nothing new. It started from the days of the first prime minister Liaquat Ali Khan. Successive governments used the Ministry of Information’s “Secret Funds.” Intelligence agencies also have used their secret funds to seek information or spread disinformation. At times, the agencies used such funds even against the government. But, accusations without any evidence can put leaders like Imran Khan’s credibility at stake and may raise the question of “Sadiq and Amin” under Article 62 and 63.

It was on August 8th, 1990, a few days after the late Benazir Bhutto’s government was sacked by former president Ghulam Ishaq Khan when she called an urgent press conference at the Bilawal House and besides blaming the premier intelligence agency for the dismissal of her government, accused some journalists of being on the payroll of agencies.

Three years later, when she again came to power, I reminded her that as the prime minister, she could ask for the list of journalists working on the payroll and also demanded that she should abolish the Ministry of Information and the Secret Fund. She failed in getting the list and abolishing the ministry or the Secret Fund.

Thus, every mainstream political party whenever criticised leveled such allegations against the media. But, when they come into power, they never release the list of such journalists whom they accuse are on payroll.

Whether Imran’s allegations are based on “facts or fiction,” it has certainly posed a serious challenge to the independent media and professional journalists.In the famous Asghar Khan case, some journalists, including editors, were named in the list submitted by the former ISI chief, Lt Gen (retd) General Asad Durrani.

So, let Imran Khan come out with the facts and evidence against the journalists whom he believes are writing or speaking against him because they are “paid”. Earlier, Imran had also claimed that journalists were paid some Rs250 crores and even in some of the TV talk shows, such allegations were made but still without evidence like the one made a few years back.

Imran should see and read his own speeches before accusing anchors and columnists of not giving a correct figure about the crowd assembled at the Dharna Chowk everyday.It would be interesting to see how many journalists in this country really believe that over a million or half a million or over 100,000 people attend the PTI Dharna. I still believe that it was an impressive show in the first three or four days but later it lost its impact. As compared to the PTI, the show of Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) was more impressive and consistent.

I wish Imran Khan’s “media team” should have provided him the facts about “professional and non-professional journalists,” and also about the “paratroopers” who have entered this profession after 2002, with the growth of private television industry.

Such allegations of Imran on journalists, who are critical of him in the last 34 days, also showed that he does not like criticism. Perhaps, he likes people who always praise him. Sincere political workers and leaders are the ones who show “dissent”.

Journalists’ bodies like the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) have rightly demanded the government to constitute a high-powered judicial commission to probe these allegations.

I also request Imran to have an internal probe into the position he has taken against the media, including allegations of corruption. Let the PTI commission be constituted, headed by Justice (retd) Wahjiuddin Ahmad. He should be authorised to get the services of any senior lawyer or retired judge. Let him also probe the government advertisements of rupees one billion which have allegedly been given to the pro-government media.

As I said, the allegations of corruption against journalists are nothing new in this country. But, when it comes from the champion of “Naya Pakistan,” it should also be substantiated.The recommendations of the Media Commission provide the best guideline to avoid such allegations but accusations coming from someone like Imran Khan, has disappointed the journalistic community and a serious question has emerged about his political outlook, as the national leaders are not supposed to level such serious allegations against senior journalists, anchors and columnists without any evidence. It should be remembered that journalists have already created history by offering themselves for accountability.

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