LAHORE / KARACHI: Protests by journalists, civil society, media union officials and the Jang Workers’ Union against the arrest of Chief Editor Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman continued on Saturday for 217 consecutive days. He has been detained for the past 239 days under NAB custody over a 34-year-old property swap issue without providing evidence of indictment or making progress in an investigation.
Staging a demonstration outside Jang’s Office, the protesters criticized Prime Minister Imran Khan for rejecting his 20-year claim to turn Pakistan into a country like Medina, alleging that he used slogans only to deceive the masses and win elections through media support. Imran Khan, they said, had victimized Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman for exposing PTI’s corruption and bad governance. They called the illegal arrests a blatant attack on media freedom and a conspiracy to shut down the country’s largest media group. They shouted slogans against the fascist PTI regime and condemned the use of the NAB to pervert the media. They demanded the chief judge take suo motu action against this grave injustice which constitutes a direct attack on freedom of expression and media freedom. They also demanded the immediate release of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman and threatened to launch an anti-government movement across the country if he was not released. Protesters included Secretary General of the Workers Union Jang Malik Farooq Awan, Pakistan Times News Editor Zaheer Anjum, senior journalist Awais Qarni, Sher Ali Khalti, Shafiq Ahmad, Ejaz Shah, Munawwar Hussain, Ayesha Akram, Romeo Jalib, Aziz Sheikh, Shahid Aziz, Shamsi Baloch, Muhammad Ali, Akmal Bhatti, Afzal Abbas, Zahid Mehmood, Shahzad Rauf and others. Zaheer Anjum called the PTI government the worst kind of fascist and authoritarian regime that tends to choke off media voices to prevent corruption and bad governance from being exposed. He said other media owners would be the next target after Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman. He said choking all the media would be easy targets after top-ranking media houses would be closed down or badly scaled down. He said media owners must realize that if they don’t empower workers and professional journalists, their own power will be severely limited, and they will fall easy prey to rulers and rulers. Sher Ali Khalti said Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman’s victimization must end and he should be released because his arrest was a symbolic move to seize media freedom. Malik Farooq Awan said Mir Shakilur-Rahman is a symbol of freedom of expression and this struggle is not only for his release but also for future media freedom. Likewise in Karachi, workers from the Jang-Geo Group continued their month-long protests against Editor-in-Chief Mir Shakil-Ur-Rahman and the persecution of the group. Speaking at a protest demonstration for Mir Shakil’s release, renowned cleric Maulana Shah Feroz-ud-Din Rehmani said Islamic jurisprudence requires punishment before imprisoning anyone. “It’s a joke that the Chief Editor has been in prison for the past eight months without any charges,” said Rehmani, who heads the Pakistan International Ummah Mission. He called for the immediate release of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman and called on the government to end its vengeful campaign against Jang Geo Group. He also criticized the National Accountability Bureau for failing to act as a fair institution. He said the daily Jang was the oldest newspaper in Pakistan and had emerged as the largest Urdu publication read in the whole world. He said the government wanted to control the independent media to hide the fact of its incompetence and deceive the public. He said Rahman’s unfair detention was against Islamic law and had to end without further ado. Other speakers, including Pakistan Intellectual Forum Chairman Aslam Khan, Secretary General of the Confederation of All Pakistan Newspapers Shakil Yamin Kanga, secretary general of the News Workers Union Dara Zafar and Secretary-general of the Press Workers Union Javed Rana Yusuf also spoke to protesting workers.