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Thursday, July 18, 2024  
12 Muharram 1446  

Former PEMRA chief accuses ex-spymaster of pressurising him during Faizabad sit-in

Absar Alam accuses Lt-Gen (retd) Faiz Hameed of controlling TV channel policy through illegal means

Former Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority Absar Alam has alleged that he was under pressure from ex-spymaster Lt-Gen (retd) Faiz Hameed during the 2017 Faizabad sit-in.

“PEMRA officials were under pressure from serving officers and the applicant-in-person received calls from the then DG(C) Major General Faiz Hamid and/or his subordinates complaining that their requests were not acceded to by the applicant-in-person,” Alam said in his statement, along with the affidavit, submitted to the Supreme Court on Tuesday.

The former PEMRA chief claimed that the ex-ISI chief had asked to take action against journalist Najam Sethi and completely blackout Hussain Haqqani from TV channels. But both demands remained unmet, he added.

The apex court in its decision on February 6, 2019 wrapped up a suo motu case of the 2017 Faizabad sit-in staged by the Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan, directing the government, law enforcers, intelligence agencies and the army’s media wing to operate within their mandate.

His reply comes a couple of days after the federal government told the Supreme Court that it has formed a fact-finding committee to investigate the Faizabad sit-in.

Earlier this month, the apex court provided another chance to all parties to submit in writing if they want to disclose facts pertaining to the case.

Alam further claimed that the ex-spymaster and his subordinates controlled TV channel policy through “illegal/unlawful” means by changing their numbers and moving them at the tail end, when they refused to follow instructions. “The higher the channel number the better the visibility and access due to various technological and social reasons.”

He added that he had approached the-then PM Nawaz Sharif, ex-CJP Saqib Nisar, and former Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Bajwa to inform them about the threats from unidentified persons to his team for not following instructions.

He said that it was “unsafe” for the PEMRA officials to work during the sit-in.

When Channel 92 was suspended on November 25, 2017, Alam said that the interior ministry and Lt-Gen (retd) had called him and questioned the reasons for such a step and asked to restore the channel.

“As such, none of the illegal/unlawful demands were acceded to,” he said.

According to the statement, all TV channels were shutdown on November 25 after a written directive from the-then federal government. The next day, it added that PEMRArestored the operation of all TV channels after a directive from the government.

“Therefore, there was a discernible pattern of interference in the affairs of and functioning of PEMRA, an unnecessary tussle wasting energy and scarce state resources in a battle imposed in a patently unconstitutional and illegal manner - at the behest of individual serving agency officer/s. As such, only through constant vigilance was PEMRA able to counter some such illegal/unlawful and threatening moves, protect by public disclosure the life and limb of its employees and yet perform its functions, albeit in a limited manner,” it said.

“It was subtly insinuated that the petition challenging the appointment as Chairman, PEMRA, was a hanging sword ready to fall at their command,” he said and added that sedition and treason cases were filed against him after serving as the PEMRA chairman.

While speaking about his ordeal, Alam said that such action has to be faced when “one crosses red lines set by individual serving agency officer/s as he did.”

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