Urdu update here | English translation by Romessa Nadeem
September 1, 2021 – ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) has expressed outrage over the arrest of two senior journalists, Amir Mir and Imran Shafqat, by the FIA in Lahore, despite clear instructions under the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (PECA) to stop harassing journalists, and has directed action against those involved.The court declared that this was a test case. If the officers involved in the Lahore incident were not made an example of, it would be assumed that only journalists with specific opinions were being targeted.
On Wednesday, Chief Justice of the IHC Athar Minallah heard petitions against FIA operations against journalists. He remarked that he has repeatedly asked to remove the impression that journalists who are giving opinions against the government are being targeted. Additional Attorney General Qasim Wadud said that if the FIA officers have violated the rules, action should be taken against them but now they have to wait for a while as the Supreme Court has called for a record of all cases of harassment of journalists. On this, the Chief Justice stated that the Supreme Court did not stop the court from continuing the proceedings. He asked about what happened in Lahore after the last hearing, and said the FIA had insulted the court. Why is the FIA playing such a game with this court, he asked, and further said they were misleading the court. Do SOPs made after court orders not apply to Lahore FIA? You have confirmed the impression against you. Tell me what action was taken against the officers involved in the Lahore incident. One FIA notice is enough to scare an ordinary citizen. This court is showing restraint today but we will not ignore it, he further stated. Why not ask Shahzad Akbar why the decision of this court has not been implemented? The FIA’s conduct proved the journalists’ allegations to be true.
Chief Justice Athar Minallah also asked whether the court should now give a free hand to the FIA. If the FIA does not take action against the Lahore incident, then who is responsible? This society is running under the constitution.
The court had said that the impression should be removed that actions are being taken only against journalists. Additional Attorney General Qasim Wadud said to give them a chance to look into the matter. On this, the court said that the officers who did this in Lahore should be made an example of by taking action against them. The DG FIA himself should have set an example for the officers involved in the Lahore incident. If someone complains against the Prime Minister, will the FIA call the Prime Minister? Everyone has their own opinion but the FIA cannot use this law in this way. You are a state agency. You should be more careful. The Prime Minister also believes in freedom of expression, but it suddenly seems that the FIA officers are going to people’s houses and firing.
The court said that although it is true that freedom of expression is being misused and lies are being told, this is not the way of regulation. People have fundamental rights, which will not be violated. After each hearing, the FIA begins a new operation, regardless of the court’s decision. What the FIA is doing is not a good trend for the future. The FIA and the government are being given a chance to dispel perceptions regarding their perceptions. The court adjourned further hearing of the case till September 27.