Amid the Pakistan government’s crackdown on private television broadcaster ARY News for carrying out “anti-state propaganda”, the founder and CEO of the network Salman Iqbal along with two of its news anchors have been booked under sedition charges.
Acting on a complaint of the Station House Officer (SHO), a First Information Report (FIR) was registered at Karachi’s Memon Goth police station. The FIR was registered just an hour before the arrest of ARY News head Ammad Yousaf, the channel said.
Anchorpersons, Arshad Sharif and Khawar Ghuman have been booked under the ‘sedition’ charges.
The FIR has been registered under sections 120, 124A, 131, and 153A in which sedition and charges of plotting alleged conspiracy have been included.
A day after the transmission of Pakistani television station ARY News was taken off air by the country’s regulatory authorities, the outlet’s senior Vice President Ammad Yousaf was arrested from Karachi in the early hours of Wednesday, the channel said.
Yousuf’s arrest comes after the channel, which is the country’s biggest private broadcaster, was served a show-cause notice by the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) on Monday.
ARY News said that its journalist was arrested by Karachi Police and a raiding team broke into his house from the main gate in the middle of the night. It has termed Yousaf’s arrest as retaliation by the government against the channel and noted that police officers in plain clothes forcibly entered the journalist’s house.
PTI leader Murad Saeed has strongly condemned the late-night arrest of the senior journalist.
Regulatory watchdog PEMRA has alleged that the channel was airing “false, hateful and seditious” content based on “absolute disinformation with a clear and present threat to national security by instigating rebellion within the armed forces”, Dawn reported. In its notice to the news outlet, the regulatory watchdog also termed the news anchor who delivered the news as “biased.”
PEMRA has also directed the channel’s CEO to appear in person for a hearing today (August 10).
The entire episode was perpetuated due to a news piece aired by the channel on how the ruling Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) has reportedly activated its strategic media cell to malign Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chairman and the country’s former prime minister Imran Khan.
The PEMRA notice to ARY News alleged that PTI leader Shehbaz Gill had made “highly hateful and seditious” remarks tantamount to “incite armed forces towards revolt,” Dawn reported.
Shortly after ARY News was taken off the air, PTI leader and close aide of Imran Khan, Shahbaz Gill was arrested in Islamabad on Tuesday.
An Islamabad police spokesperson said that Gill has been taken into custody for inciting the public against the state institutions, Geo News reported.
“After the ban on ARY yesterday, they’ve today arrested @SHABAZGIL. Pakistan is living under a fascist imported government, that doesn’t care about the human rights of the people of Pakistan. We strongly demand the immediate release of Dr Gill,” Imran Khan’s PTI tweeted yesterday.
PTI leader and former federal minister Fawad Chaudhry said that Gill was picked up from Banigala Chowk by unidentified personnel in cars with missing number plates.
Meanwhile, the former prime minister slammed the arrest, asking “can such shameful acts take place in any democracy?” “This is an abduction, not an arrest. Can such shameful acts take place in any democracy? Political workers are treated as enemies. And all to make us accept a foreign-backed government of crooks,” Imran Khan tweeted.
After the arrest of Gill, the country’s Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah said that the current government has not broken the law and that the arrest was legal.
In another key development, Pakistan Muslim League Quaid (PML-Q) leader Moonis Elahi said that he is sending Punjab Police for the protection of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan’s residence Banigala.
Former interior minister of Pakistan and Awami Muslim League chief, Sheikh Rasheed Ahmed has warned the Shehbaz Sharif-led Pakistan government saying that if anyone tries to arrest Imran Khan that would trigger instability and bloody politics in the country.