AJ Foundation says no one was invited to speak at conference in violation of any law
The organisers of the Asma Jahangir Conference have rejected the government's criticism of PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif's speech during the recently held event.
In a statement, the Asma Jahangir (AJ) Foundation said that leaders of Opposition parties, big and small, should be invited to speak, and freedom of expression, even where it involves true but uncomfortable conversations, is the cornerstone of democracy.
The organisers said the Third Asma Jahangir Conference last weekend generated a lot of debate and finger-pointing from the ruling PTI government.
"Muhammad Nawaz Sharif [...] addressed the closing speech of the conference keeping in tradition with events organised by bar councils where leaders of opposition parties are invited to speak," the statement said.
The organisers rejected claims that the conference furthered any partisan agenda and said that "no such allegations were made at earlier conferences when Bilawal Bhutto and Yousaf Raza Gillani delivered the closing address".
The AJ Foundation noted that that several prominent members of the ruling PTI party were invited to all three conferences, many of whom spoke at all three conferences, and others who declined the invitation.
The AJ Foundation said that "no one" was invited to speak at the conference "in violation of any law".
Pakistan Electronic Media Authority (PEMRA) has banned certain categories of individuals from being broadcast on television, no such prohibition is placed on these individuals addressing public gatherings in general, the statement said.
"Indeed, former Prime Minister, Muhammad Nawaz Sharif, has addressed gatherings previously and it is entirely regrettable not to say embarrassing, that internet cables were disabled to blackout his speech," the statement said.
Last week, Prime Minister Imran Khan had said speeches by Chief Justice of Pakistan Gulzar Ahmed and a person whom the Supreme Court convicted — Nawaz — in the same event (Asma Jahangir Conference) was "unfortunate".
"It is unfortunate that in a conference where the chief justice and judges of the Supreme Court are invited, who delivers a speech there? A person who has been convicted by the Supreme Court and has fled the country after lying," he said during an event in Islamabad.
"No nation is destroyed solely because of corruption, but it is destroyed when people do not consider theft as something bad," the prime minister said, adding that when a nation's moral values die, that is when its downfall begins.