14 January 2023
By Ahmed Saeed
Journalist Shahid Aslam was arrested on the night of Friday, January 13, by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) and moved to the federal capital on charges of leaking the tax returns of former Army Chief General (Retired) Qamar Javed Bajwa and providing them to an investigative news platform, Fact Focus.
On Saturday, Aslam was handed over to the FIA on a two-day physical remand by a local court in Islamabad.
The FIA told the court that they asked Shahid Aslam for his phone and laptop passwords during detention, but he refused to give them.
The story was by American-based Pakistani journalist Ahmad Noorani. However, the editor of Fact Focus, Usman Manzoor denied the claim and said that Shahid Aslam had nothing to do with the story of General Bajwa. “Shahid Aslam does not have any knowledge of this story (during its fact finding stage),” he claimed.
Last year, the IHC had ordered the FIA not to harass journalists and if they had to question a journalist in a case, they should first inform the Pakistan Federation Union of Journalists (PFUJ). However it has been noted that Shahid Aslam was neither given a summons notice nor informed the PFUJ before his arrest.
This method of arrest has been deeply criticized by senior journalist Hamid Mir, who said it was completely wrong.
He also said that journalists should be able to publish their stories against General Bajwa that they had had to withhold for a long time.
IHC Bar Association President Shoaib Shaheen said that the arrest of Shahid Aslam is a violation of the principles of freedom of press and the ordeR of IHC and PFUJ should take contempt of court action against FIA.
Former President of PFUJ Shehzada Zulfikar said that FIA’s action is completely illegal and PFUJ will necessarily refer to IHC order, citing that “PFUJ condemns this (action)”.
“(FIA) is a civilian organization” added Hamid Mir, thus it was under the control of the federal government and if the FIA is not under the control of the Interior Minister, Rana Sanaullah, then he should resign.