The Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) on Saturday directed ARY News to respond to a complaint filed by the Intelligence Bureau (IB) against its report on a list of lawmakers suspected of links with banned militant groups allegedly compiled by the IB.

The list first came to light when ARY News programme 'Power Play' aired a report on Sept 25 claiming that former prime minister Nawaz Sharif had directed the IB on July 10 — three weeks before his disqualification — to keep watch on the listed legislators, mostly belonging to the PML-N.

The list is said to contain the names of over 37 lawmakers suspected of having links with banned terrorist and sectarian outfits.

According to a Pemra press release, the complainant, the IB, said that 'Power Play' host Arshad Sharif "aired a fabricated news story alleging initiation of a report by the IB and displayed a fake document with regard to linkages of 37 parliamentarians with defunct and militant organisations" on Sept 25 and 27.

Although the IB had "officially rebutted the fake story on Sept 26, the programme host had ignored the clarification made by the state institution in his programme aired on Sept 27 and repeated the fake allegations", Pemra said.

Subsequently, the IB filed a complaint with Pemra, after which the regulatory body ordered ARY News to submit a written reply before or on Oct 2 by 4pm "along with the attested documents and evidence confirming the authenticity of the letter/list which was shown".

Pemra also directed the organisation to "appear before the Pemra Council of Complaints on Oct 5 at 11:30am at Pemra Headquarters in Islamabad", saying that Sharif could appear along with the company's chief executive officer "in order to present his stance".

The body warned that ex-parte proceedings would be initiated under the relevant laws in case of a failure to file a reply within the stipulated time or appear before the Council.

Lawmakers protest list

A number of ministers whose names were on the "fabricated" list raised the issue during a cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi earlier this week.

They said that the report sought to damage their reputations and called for strict action to be taken against the "plotters", as the IB had denied receiving any such directives from the Prime Minister’s Office or possessing any such list.

The list contained the names of a number of key ministers — including Riaz Pirzada, Zahid Hamid, Baleeghur Rehman, Sikandar Bosan and Hafiz Abdul Kareem, as well as National Assembly Deputy Speaker Murtaza Javed Abbasi and a handful of senators.

Members of the National Assembly (NA) Standing Committee on Procedure and Privileges on Friday also protested against the 'IB list' and decided to summon the IB director general (DG) to provide clarification on the matter, as the intelligence agency had earlier denied the media reports.

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