By Rehan Piracha
ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court on Monday expressed its displeasure over recent remarks made by Pakistan Tehrik Insaf Chairman Imran Khan about the chief of army staff.
Chief Justice Athar Minallah disposed of a petition by Pakistan Tehrik Insaf Chairman Imran Khan against a ban on broadcasting his live speeches, directing officials of Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority to follow guidelines given in the 2018 Supreme Court judgment.
In an address to a rally in Faisalabad on September 4, PTI chief Imran Khan slammed the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and Pakistan Peoples Party over opposing early elections saying both parties wanted to appoint an army chief of their own choice.
During the hearing, Chief Justice Athar Minallah questioned the petitioner’s counsel about how could they justify what was said in the PTI rally. “If someone makes a statement that someone is a patriot and someone is not, then you say to give them an open leave to do so? the Chief Justice said. Every citizen was a patriot and the statement about the armed forces in particular wanted to demoralise them, the judge said. “Can anyone say that there will be no patriots in the armed forces? Can anyone justify what was said yesterday?” Chief Justice Athar Minallah said, referring to the remarks made in the Faisalabad rally.
Addressing the PTI’s lawyer, the court said that his client made irresponsible statements, adding that such statements would create problem for him. The chief justice said the influence of the accusation of a political leader who has a following was also greater. The court said 30 million people were affected in the floods, questioning whether the political leadership should respond like that.
The court said the armed forces were sacrificing their lives while rescuing people affected in countrywide floods. “Can the patriotism of any army general could be questioned?”
The Chief Justice inquired from the PTI’s lawyer whether he had heard Imran Khan’s statement yesterday. Is this how political leadership works? the court said. “Everything is put on stake for Game of Thrones?”
The PEMRA’s counsel said the regulator had put in place a strong time-delay mechanism and also issued notices. The Chief Justice remarked that the court should not be expected to provide any relief in view of the things that were going on. Justice Minallah asked the PTI counsel to undergo self-accountability, saying “do not expect relief from courts as it is the prerogative of courts.”
“Every citizen is a patriot and no one has the authority to issue such certificate,” the Chief Justice added.
The court disposed of the petition, directing PEMRA to follow regulations in accordance with the Supreme Court’s decision.
PEMRA ban on Altaf Hussain, Nawaz Sharif?
The PEMRA had also banned speeches of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and Muttahida Qaumi Movement founder Altaf Hussain. The regulator allowed broadcast of live speech of Nawaz Sharif while the ban on Altaf Hussain was still in place, reflecting that it followed guidelines of the government in this regard.
In 2015, the Lahore High Court ordered PEMRA to place ban on the broadcast of images and speeches of Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) chief Altaf Hussain across all electronic and print media till further orders. An appeal against the judgment is still pending with the Supreme Court.
In 2020, PEMRA banned channels from broadcasting/rebroadcasting speeches, addresses or interviews by absconders, including Nawaz Sharif, in their entirety. However, the state-owned broadcaster Pakistan Television broadcasted address of Nawaz Sharif from London on August 28. However, PEMRA issued no notice to the channels broadcasting the former premier’s speech.
Interestingly, former MQM MPA Nisar Ahmed Panhwar, who filed a petition in Sindh High Court for lifting ban on Altaf Husain, was lifted by security officials prior to the date of hearing. On August 30, Khalid Mumtaz, counsel of Panhwar, told the SHC bench that his client taken into custody for filing the petition.