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Saturday Mar 14 2020

UK state minister, MPs condemn arrest of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman

Photo: File

LONDON: The British government and members of Parliament on Friday condemned the arrest of Editor-in-Chief of the Jang Geo Media Group Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) in a 34-year-old fake case and the shutdown of Geo channel across the country by the Pakistan Electronic Media Authority (PEMRA).

The UK officials called on Pakistani authorities to stop the illegal actions against the country’s largest independent media house and let Geo News operate without interference.

UK Minister of State for Foreign Office and Department of International Development (DFID) for South Asia, Commonwealth and United Nations Lord Tariq Ahmed was among the officials who expressed concerned regarding the arrest.

“Very concerned by reports of the arrest of Mir Shakil-ur-Rehman, the owner of Jang Media Group in Pakistan. The freedom to hold and express views without censorship, intimidation or unnecessary restriction is a cornerstone of democracy,” tweeted Lord Tariq.

Lord Nazir Ahmed termed MSR’s arrest as “illegal” and said NAB was involved in using draconian tactics which were used by the Soviet Union. He said the case was unique and vindictive because he was arrested at the investigative stage in an alleged white-collar crime dating back nearly four decades in which no illegality or wrongdoing has been proven against him at any forum.

“This means that either you are weak or you running a vendetta against him and that’s why you arrest him. Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman should be released immediately and NAB should be reformed,” said Lord Nazir. He added that NAB has abused its powers, locked up professors and businessmen and politicians without any evidence.

Lord Nazir stated that the Pakistani government has to be careful and urged that the media should remain free.

Also read: Religious leaders condemn govt for victimising largest media group in Pakistan

“The tampering of Geo numbers on cable and shutting down in some parts is unfair. Pakistan will progress when media is free,” said the member of the House of Lords.

Lord Qurban Hussain said that he stood for human rights in Pakistan, saying that everyone should get justice and Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman should also get justice.

Labour MP Afzal Khan said that MASR’s arrest and shutting down of Geo News was a serious concern. He also paid tribute to the services of Jang and Geo for Pakistan and the democratic process.

The Labour leader said that the media was needed for accountability and it was the media’s right to ask tough questions. He said media should be given free environment to operate and should not be targeted by the government authorities.

Naz Shah, another Labour MP, said she was aware that editor-in-chief of Jang and Geo has been arrested and had received reports of the been shut down of Geo in several parts of the country.

“A strong press is a guarantor of democracy and liberties and without accountability and freedom of the press, there is no development. Free media is crucial for democracy, especially in countries like Pakistan,” remarked Shah.

Also read: PEMRA issues show cause notice to Geo News for 'airing unipolarity of views'

Yasmin Qureshi, the chair of Parliamentary Group on Pakistan, was alarmed at the shutting down of Geo News on PEMRA’s directions.

“Millions of people watch Geo in UK, Pakistan and elsewhere. The arrest of the Chief Executive Officer of the paper, I hope, will not impact the opportunity of the people to watch Geo and read Jang newspaper,” said the Labour MP.

Britain’s first turban-wearing Sikh MP Tan Dhesi called on Prime Minister Imran Khan to restore Geo’s transmissions. He said Geo News is the voice of Kashmiris and Pakistanis and always raised the issue of occupied Kashmir and other issues close to the heart of Pakistani and Kashmiri community.

The MP said that he will raise the issue of MSR’s arrest with Britain’s foreign secretary in Parliament and ask him to take it up with the Pakistani government.

Labour MP Mohammad Yasin called the arrest ‘unbelievable’ saying that the arrest does not set a good precedent.

Father of education activist Malala Yousufzai, Ziauddin Yousufzai said he was saddened by the arrest of MSR.

Also read: Leak of Mir Shakil’s picture in NAB lock-up shows vengeance knows no bounds

“I believe that his arrest is based on political revenge and its malafide. MSR has a huge contribution to Pakistan’s media. Unfortunately, he is being kept in illegal custody,” said Yousufzai. The activist reminded that free media was the soul of democracy and without it, there was no difference between a dictatorship and a democracy.

“Its clear Shakil-ur-Rahman has been arrested for political revenge,” said Malala’s father.