June 3rd, 2021
By Asra Haque
Although Geo News had announced that it has constituted a committee to review Hamid MIr’s speech prior to any decision to reinstate the veteran journalist, Mir’s troubles are far from over. In the most recent development, one Manzoor Qadir Bhandar, a Gujranwala-based lawyer, has filed a petition with an Additional District and Sessions Court judge to try Hamid Mir and Asma Shirazi for treason.
Bhandar told Voicepk.net that he approached the court as he objected to Mir’s mention of the Chief of Army Staff, General Qamar Javed Bajwa’s name in his speech.
However when confronted by the fact that the senior journalist never uttered General Bajwa’s name, he conceded that he might have “erred a bit when writing the petition.”
In fact, Bhandar appears to have a history of dragging critics of Pakistan’s military establishment into court. Prior to his application against Hamid Mir, Bhandar had petitioned the courts against the late National Party of Pakistan leader Mir Hasil Khan Bizenjo for claiming that Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Chief Lt. Gen. Faiz Hameed’s “people” were responsible for the Opposition’s failure in the no-confidence vote against Sadiq Sanjrani in the Senate in 2019.
When asked why he was particularly sensitive when it came to criticism of the armed forces of Pakistan, he replied “These cases call to out to my heart.”
And apparently, there are various others whose hearts are moved in the same way as Bhandar’s is, and they have petitioned to courts to register cases against journalists and politicians particularly under the provisions of hate speech, treason and sedition. This is in spite of the fact that the law only permits the Federal and Provincial Governments to prosecute individuals for the alleged anti-state crimes, especially treason and sedition.
Rajput requested the police to register a case against Hamid Mir for treason, providing that the journalist’s May 28 speech hurt his sentiments.
Speaking to Voicepk.net, he revealed that he is the sub-editor for a local newspaper and occasionally writes columns. Upon being told that under the law he did not have the authority to file such a lawsuit, he replied, “I do not understand the nuances of the law” and hung up.
Rasheed had registered a first information report (FIR) against the senior leadership of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), including party supremo Nawaz Sharif, in September of last year.
Rasheed stated that Sharif’s speech jeopardized the national interest, and conceded to Voicepk.net that he is affiliated with the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI). While the Lahore police have removed all names except Nawaz Sharif’s from the FIR, he provided that the case is currently pending hearing in court.
It is pertinent to mention here that Badar Rasheed has a criminal record and is nominated in several cases with the Lahore police under various provisions, including attempted murder.
Saleem, who informed Voicepk.net that he was elected as a PTI councillor in Lahore’s Township area, lodged a case against PML-N leader Javed Latif for allegedly inciting the public against state institutions. When pressed for details about his own case, he claimed he was not privy to the particulars and that all he knew was that Latif had been incarcerated.
In 2020, Naveed lodged a case against former Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) Chairperson Absar Alam for alleged sedition and defaming state institutions under provisions of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) and the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (PECA) 2016.
While talking to Voicepk.net, Chaudhry claimed to be the president of the PTI’s Lawyers’ Wing in Jhelum and understands the law very well. When asked about the status of his case, he said the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) was likely investigating the matter. Upon pointing out that he as a lawyer must have known that the law does not empower him as an ordinary citizen to press treason charges against other individuals, he admitted he was previously unaware of this and as such took the case to the FIA under PECA provisions.
In September of 2020, Ehtesham filed a lawsuit under provisions of the PPC and PECA against Islamabad-based journalist Asad Ali Toor for allegedly maligning state institutions in the Lahore High Court. However, the court dismissed the petition, terming it “infructuous”.
Ehtesham is a known habitual petitioner, and had previously approached the court seeking the disqualification of Prime Minister Imran Khan for keeping his daughter Tyrian Jade White a secret. While talking to Voicepk.net, Hafiz Ehtesham claimed he filed such petitions in the name of national interest. He is affiliated with the Shuhada Foundation, an organization which had been established to ensure justice to the ‘martyrs’ of the Lal Masjid incident.
Ironically however, even the Shuhada Foundation’s Chief, Tariq Asad claimed that Ehtesham was once expelled from the organization for his ‘childish’ actions.
Following the registration of the FIR, the police arrested Bilal Farooqi. However, a day later, a judicial magistrate ordered the journalist’s immediate release and directed police officials to hand over the case to the FIA. Upon Voicepk.net’s inquiry into the current status of the case, Khan claimed he knew nothing and disconnected the call.