Unjustified detention

Jun 25 2020

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WHAT began as a farce is becoming more so by the day. It has been over 100 days since Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman, editor-in-chief of Jang group, was arrested by NAB in a 34-year-old property case in March. Since then, his bail petition has gone unheard with five bail hearings either cancelled/postponed for one reason or another. The first time, the bench was unavailable; twice, one of the judges was on leave; another time, a new bench had been formed and had not had time to read the case file. The most recent such hearing was on Monday; it was adjourned after a few minutes because some paperwork by NAB was missing from the file of one of the judges. Now the next date is July 7. The arrest itself was completely uncalled for. Mr Rahman had appeared before NAB for the second time to answer questions about the property in question — which the accountability body alleges was illegally leased to him by Nawaz Sharif in 1986 — when he was suddenly taken into custody.

It is an ordeal designed to test the patience and break the will of the individual at its centre. But as everyone in the media knows, this is about far more. It is about sending a message to ‘troublesome’ journalists and media houses who dare to question the modus operandi of powerful organisations like NAB, that such ‘investigative instincts’ could cost them dearly, where both revenue streams and peace of mind are concerned. Our dysfunctional judicial system further exacerbates the travails of the targeted individuals. All manner of outrageous accusations, including treason, have been levelled at journalists for doing their duty, simply because their work has threatened to expose the officially sanctioned narrative for being a sham. The state seems determined to grind down the media into a supine uniformity, all reading from the same script and peddling the same fictions. It should know there still remain journalists in this country determined to hold their ground in protecting their hard-won freedoms.

Published in Dawn, June 25th, 2020