Lawyers, rights groups slam threats hurled at journalist

Published September 1, 2020
The statement “denounced this well-orchestrated campaign” against the journalist, declaring him anti-state and agent of the enemy. — Photo courtesy Ahmed Noorani's Twitter
The statement “denounced this well-orchestrated campaign” against the journalist, declaring him anti-state and agent of the enemy. — Photo courtesy Ahmed Noorani's Twitter

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Bar Council (PBC), Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) and Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) in a joint statement “strongly condemned” death threats hurled at senior journalist Ahmad Noorani for writing an investigative piece about the business fortunes of close relatives of a retired army officer and prime minister’s aide.

The statement, issued by PBC vice chairman Abid Saqi, HRCP chairperson Dr Mehdi Hasan and secretary general Harris Khalique, PFUJ president Shahzada Zulfikar and secretary general Nasir Zaidi, “denounced this well-orchestrated campaign” against the journalist, declaring him anti-state and agent of the enemy.

The statement maintains that if anyone has any complaint against Mr Noorani’s story, they should approach courts. “The bar, press, and civil society leaderships urge the government to provide protection to Mr Noorani and investigate elements behind these threats to the journalist.”

They reminded the government that Mr Noorani had been brutally attacked a few years ago and the culprits got off scot-free.

Shibli says Asim Bajwa will soon speak about assets

Expressing full support for Mr Noorani, the statement calls upon all human rights organisations and civil society to take note of the situation where voices of dissent are being curbed through brute force and even abduction of journalists.

“Freedom of expression is under more threat under this government than it was during the martial law regimes. We stand for freedom of expression and speech, and would resist any attempt to impose any curbs on them,” the statement concluded.

Assets of PM’s aide, family

In a separate statement, Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) secretary general and former senator Farhatullah Babar on Monday demanded a thorough probe into the investigative news report published on a website about alleged offshore properties and businesses of Special Assistant to the Prime Minister (SAPM) on Infor­mation retired Lt Gen Asim Saleem Bajwa and his close family members.

Mr Babar said there was a need to carry out investigations to ascertain how the alleged businesses of Mr Bajwa’s family members multiplied in other countries in proportion to his rise along the official ladder in Pakistan. “The official documents quoted in the report apparently lend credence to it,” he said, adding that this had raised serious questions about the fidelity of solemn declarations made by the SAPM last month.

NAB’s silence

The PPP leader said that the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), the anti-graft watchdog that always claimed to have looked at the nature of cases and not the faces of individuals, was totally silent in this matter. “Too much is at stake to turn a blind eye,” he added.

“Restoring credibility demands that the report is appropriately responded to in a transparent, effective and convincing manner,” he said, adding that “silence or closing eyes is no an option”.

He said: “Discrimination, selective application of the law, some more equal than others has weakened the fabric of state and society which must come to an end.”

Following the report’s publication, retired Lt Gen Asim Saleem Bajwa, who is also chairman of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) Authority, denied the allegations on Twitter. He said: “A malicious propaganda story published on an unknown site, against me and my family, is strongly rebutted.”

Talking to reporters in his hometown Multan last week, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi had claimed that the authenticity of the news report on the alleged offshore properties and businesses of Asim Saleem Bajwa and his family would be clear soon.

“It is now a common practice that the news is run without confirmation. A news should be made public once it is confirmed. The truth in this case will come to the fore soon,” the minister had stated.

Speaking at a protest demonstration organised by the Defence of Human Rights and civil society organisations outside the National Press Club on Monday evening to observe the International Day of the Disappeared, PPP leader Farhatullah Babar said enforced disappearance was a crime against humanity under the international law and warned that one day the world might wake up and take notice of the impunity with which people continue to disappear in the country without a trace.

Meanwhile, federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Shibli Faraz through a tweet stated that Mr Bajwa would talk about the news report regarding his assets in the next few days.

Published in Dawn, September 1st, 2020



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