LONDON: Federal Minister for Science and Technology Fawad Chaudhry said that a free trial is the right of Geo and Jang Editor-in-Chief Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman and justice should be done in his case.
The Federal Minister was speaking to the Overseas Pakistani Journalists Action Committee (OPJAC) in a virtual meeting arranged by Convenor Azhar Javaid and senior journalist Farid Qureshi. Journalists from the UK and Europe attended the briefing by Chaudhry.
When asked questions about the continuing detention of MSR for over two months after being arrested illegally by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), Chaudhary said that “justice should not just be done but should be seen to be done” in the case of MSR who is in detention in a 34-year-old private land purchase case and whose detention has attracted international outcry.
Chaudhry commended Jang and Geo media group for a “tremendously positive, powerful, and historic role in the service of Pakistan”.
The federal minister said that Jang Group’s contribution to Pakistan stretches over 70 years. “Starting from Mir Khalil-ur-Rehman to MSR to Mir Ibrahim Rehman, they have played a major role. Such groups don’t come into being overnight and have a strong history. A free trial is the fundamental right of MSR. Nobody should be denied an investigation or trial because of his weight and worth; justice should be seen to be done. I hope MSR gets a free trial and all pre-requisites of the trial are met.”
Chaudhary fully supported the call by Federal Minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan for Prime Minister Imran Khan’s special assistants and advisors to declare their assets, nationalities, and conflicts of interest in Pakistan and abroad.
Sarwar had told journalist Adil Shahzeb in an interview that there were aliens sitting in the cabinet of PM Imran Khan and their origins and realities were not known.
Chaudhry told British Pakistani journalists: “I agree with Ghulam Sarwar Khan. Special Assistants to Prime Ministers and advisors should declare their assets and interests. Only elected representatives should be able to make a decision, not advisors and assistants. This is a legal requirement. This is what Imran Khan asked for when he was in opposition and asked PTI leaders to make declarations.”
The federal minister said: “Expert opinions should be provided to the government and the concept and role of advisors and special assistants is important, but they should not make decisions because they are not answerable to electorates and have nothing to lose or gain at the ballot box. Elected representatives declare their assets and get held accountable by the media and the law.”
Chaudhary said that Firdous Ashiq Awan gained the information advisory through “lobbying” but “failed to deliver and could not come up to expectations”.
However, he regretted that some sections of media targeted Awan and linked her with corruption and misuse of power. He said she should not have been maligned in the media with allegations of corruption. “I don’t want to talk about her because she’s not there anymore.”
Chaudhry accused those who fuel religious sectarianism — between all sects — of working for foreign interests, knowingly and unknowingly.
“Pakistan’s religious leadership was always against the creation of Pakistan and never stood by Pakistan. Sectarian leaders either play into the hands of India or Afghan intelligence. They sometimes don’t know who they are serving. All Shia and Sunni sectarian groups get funds from abroad. In Pakistan, we have one class that is more loyal to Saudi Arabia than Pakistan and another class is more loyal to Iran than to Pakistan. Frankly, we should have no hopes from our religious leadership.”
Fawad Chaudhry assured the journalists present that merit would be ensured in MSR’s case.
International media organisations including Time Magazine has termed MSR’s arrest as one of the top ten threats to press freedom across the world.
Christophe Deloire, Secretary-General of Reporters without Borders, also wrote to Prime Minister Imran Khan about the diminishing media freedoms in Pakistan which included the curbs placed on Geo News.