Political leaders: arrest to weaken democracy

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Political leaders: arrest to weaken democracy

ISLAMABAD: The political leadership of the country has condemned the arrest of Jang/Geo Group Editor-in-Chief Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman by the NAB Lahore in a 34-year-old case pertaining to private property and termed it an attack on freedom of expression.

Former president and the PPP co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari condemned the arrest and said that the NAB after destroying theeconomy of the country is trying to crush the freedom of expression. Asif Ali Zardari said that selected rulers are liars and people of small brain and they do not have courage to face criticism.

He said the attack on media is an effort to weaken democracy. “The NAB has become a tool of political engineering,” he said. The PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari condemned the arrest of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman and termed arrest an attack on the independence of media.

“The PPP from the day one is saying that NAB is being used for victimisation. Imran Khan has been using NAB against the people he does not like,” said Senator Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar, the spokesman for Bilawal.

Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar said Imran Khan wants to crush freedom of opinion with such kinds of arrests. He demanded release of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman immediately. Parliamentary leader of the PPP in the Senate Senator Sherry Rehman said this is open harassment of media. “First Dawn, and now News,” she said.

Sherry Rehman said the government just wants megaphones that sings its praises. “The message is don’t be telling any truths to power, we will dig up old cases and put NAB on your trail,” she said.

The PPP Secretary General Syed Nayyer Hussain Bokhari also condemned the arrest of the Editor-in-Chief of Geo and Jang Group and said the NAB-Niazi nexus has been proved. “It was not arrest of the Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman but attack on freedom of expression,” he said.

Nayyer Bokhari said the all knows that the strings of the NAB were in the hands of government and cronies of Imran Khan. Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shahbaz Sharif condemned Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman’s arrest and said allegations against the Jang Group Editor-in-Chief is related to a property he allegedly bought illegally from a government entity more than 34 years ago. The property, in fact, was bought from a private party and all evidence of this was provided to NAB including the legal requirements that were fulfilled such as the payment of duty and taxes. Shahbaz Sharif said media was the fourth pillar of the state which “fascist rulers” were trying to destroy. “We can smell revenge from Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman’s arrest,” he said.

Shahbaz said media was being suppressed over the past 18 months. He said that a government which was going down always attacked the media and political opponents. The PML-N vice president Maryam Nawaz, while speaking to reporters in Islamabad, said that Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman’s arrest “shows how scared they (government) are of the media”.

“This crackdown on the media is not new, it’s an old [tactic]. Honest news anchors were targeted and sidelined and today you have arrested the head of a media house. This might block the news but it will not block the truth,” she said. Former premier Shahid Khaqan Abbasi also condemned the arrest and said that it was a “black day for press freedom”.

“I have always spoken about NAB and have said that it has become a tool for political engineering, suppressing opposition and media,” he said. “I ask you today, why is it that you arrest people? Islamabad High Court asks the same question but you don’t have an answer. What questions did you have for Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman that you had to arrest him? What is the reason behind the arrest of a man who is one of the most renowned personalities of this country, who lives abroad but visits, has a presence in the country? It is only to show that whoever speaks will be arrested.”

The ANP leaders Asfandyar Wali Khan and Mian Iftikhar Hussain said the arrest made in an over 34-year-old case was an attempt by the government to stifle the freedom of expression.

They said the government had now targeted the media after hunting political opponents. Both said NAB was being used to control the media. The ANP leaders said the government could not tolerate criticism of its incompetence and had started targeting the press for unveiling the truth. They said the ANP would stands by the Jang Media Group in it struggle for the independence of the media. The ANP leaders asked the government to stop what they termed revengeful policies against the media as the move would not succeed.

Religious leaders also condemned the arrest of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman terming it an open attack on media that showed the government had become totally confused in the face of its bad governance and failure of its policies over the 20-month rule.

Jamaat-e-Islami Ameer Senator Sirajul Haq said the arrest of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman was the worst kind of attack on freedom of expression and victimisation of media, yet another one among the numerous political victimisations by the PTI government so far to suppress the voice of dissent and opponents.

Talking to The News, he said though the institutions like the NAB and courts had always been used by the governments to victimise opponents, yet the present NAB had been acting like a petty policeman to punish everyone who dared to disagree and oppose. He said he had always been an ardent supporter of accountability to clean the country of the mess it had been in, but he always wanted across the board and transparent accountability, in line with the rules and regulations, and not what had been displayed by the PTI government.

Jamiat Ahle Hadith Pakistan (JAHP) president Senator Prof Sajid Mir said the arrest of Jang Group’s Editor-in-Chief on a flimsy looking case was nothing but a blatant attack on media freedom and showed utter confusion in the ranks of the PTI government. Talking to The News, he said the PTI had lost patience to face criticism of the total failure of its policies and governance, and had stooped too low to media bashing of those who had been criticising its performance. He warned that misusing the NAB against political opponents and media to such a nasty extent would lead to complete doing away with the anti-graft body forever in the country.

Jamiat Ulema Pakistan (JUP) President Pir Ijaz Hashmi said arresting the editor-in-chief of the largest media group of the country suggested that government seemed to have lost its senses and patience to bear the criticism. He termed it worst kind of media victimisation, saying such ill-planned moves would bring bad name for the PTI as the suppressor of freedom of expression that would go down in history as scar on its face.

Former information minister and president of National Kashmir Alliance (NKA) Muhammad Ali Durrani termed the arrest of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman as bad example of media victimisation and a blunder by the PTI government. He said the move suggested Prime Minister Imran Khan was trying to become martial law administrator or dictator, which he must not do.

All Pakistan Ulema Council Chairman Allama Tahir Ashrafi also condemned the arrest of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman and demanded his immediate release.