October 2nd, 2020
By Asra Haque
On October 1, Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) issued a notice to all licensed TV channels to stop broadcasting speeches, public addresses, and interviews of proclaimed offenders and absconders. The ban was doled out upon the complaint of Supreme Court advocate Muhammad Azhar Siddique, a right-leaning, habitual petitioner, and came the light of a recent live-streamed address by former Prime Minister of Pakistan, Nawaz Sharif, who is a proclaimed offender in the ongoing Toshakhana case.
Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Shibli Faraz strongly condemned Nawaz Sharif for ‘inciting people against the state’ in his speech and dubbed him ‘Altaf Hussain 2.0’. The minister also urged citizens to decide for themselves whether the senior PML-N leader’s speeches should be shown or not.
However, for a similar petition filed by missing persons advocate Colonel (R) Inam-ur-Rahim (who has also made a name for himself challenging the establishment in courts) against the broadcast of speeches by former dictator General (R) Pervez Musharraf in 2019, PEMRA’s position was the opposite. PEMRA had ruled that Col Inam’s complaint was non-maintainable in lieu of Article 19 of the Constitution of Pakistan, which guarantees the freedom of speech and the freedom of the press. Musharraf is a declared fugitive in a high treason case for suspending the Constitution of Pakistan in 2007, and for his role in the murder of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.