Bajwa data leak: Islamabad court approves two-day physical remand of Bol News journalist Shahid Aslam
A local court in Islamabad on Saturday approved a two-day physical remand of Bol News journalist Shahid Aslam, who was arrested by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) from Lahore earlier in the day for his alleged part in leaking personal tax data of former army chief General (retired) Qamar Javed Bajwa.
A report by investigative news website FactFocus — which describes itself as a “Pakistan-based digital media news organisation working on data-based investigative news stories — had in November published a report, accusing the army chief and his family of amassing assets worth Rs12.7 billion over the past six years.
The report cited tax records and wealth statements of the Bajwa family to corroborate its claims about the alleged accumulation of assets by the family inside and outside Pakistan.
Taking a notice of the report, the finance minister had said that the leak was “clearly violative of the complete confidentiality of tax information that the law provides”.
Aslam, who has been arrested in connection with the data leak, was presented before the court today. His counsel argued that the detention of his client was illegal, saying that there was no proof that Aslam “received any [leaked] information and had then passed it on to someone else”.
He urged the FIA to provide proof to support its claim to the court, adding that neither of the four sections in the FIR was valid and that his client could not be arrested just on the basis of suspicion.
It is pertinent to mention that Dawn.com was unable to acquire a copy of the FIR till the filing of this story.
Subsequently, the counsel prayed to the court for the dismissal of the case against his client.
To this, the prosecutor said the proof was in Aslam’s mobile phone and laptop, which he was not providing to investigators. He claimed the journalist played a “role of the facilitator” in the crime.
“Why was Shahid Aslam visiting the FBR? It was because he had to acquire information,” the prosecutor said, adding that if found guilty, Aslam could face a 10-year jail sentence.
After hearing the arguments, judicial magistrate Umar Shabbir approved a two-day physical remand of the journalist.
In a video of the journalist being escorted out of the court, Aslam can be heard saying: “They are asking me for passwords. I won’t give the passwords.”
Aslam added that he was a professional journalist and has many sources. “I won’t give the password,” he reiterated.
The Lahore Press Club condemned the arrest and urged the government to release Aslam immediately, as well as security for journalists according to the law.
In a statement issued today, President Muhammad Azam Chaudhry, Senior Vice President Shadaab Riaz and other officeholders of the LPC said “journalists are mirrors of the society” who bring forward daily activities in the form of news for the government and public.
The statement added that journalists tend to face a lot of opposition and harassment for their work.
“This is a sensitive profession in which every journalist should work according to the ethics of journalism,” it said. “Journalists should be careful when publishing news about sensitive institutions and people associated with them.”
Former senator Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar also criticised the arrest and raised a question about misplaced priorities while terrorism was on the rise and the economy in a precarious situation.
He also pondered what was wrong in making public the tax records of politicians, judges and generals.
Additional reporting by Rana Bilal.