LAHORE: The Lahore High Court on Tuesday postponed the hearing of Editor-in-Chief of the Jang Geo Media Group Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman till Wednesday, July 8.
The veteran journalist has been illegally arrested in a concocted case relating to a property transaction that took place 34 years ago.
MSR's lawyer Amjad Pervez argued his case at a hearing of his bail petition at the Lahore High Court (LHC) on Tuesday. His lawyer argued that MSR had been arrested for criticising the government.
He added that the Punjab government, at the time, had provided an exemption on 54 plots in accordance with the law. Parvez said that the prosecution had investigated MSR and had obtained nothing from him.
MSR's lawyer said that Mukhtar Alam was registered with the registrar on May 22, 1983, and on June 4, 1986, the Jang/Geo Media Group Editor-in-Chief requested the DG Lahore Development Authority for initial construction.
The lawyer further said that on July 22 of the same year, the director land development issued a letter denying MSR's request. "The suspect had paid all dues by August 5, 1986," Pervez informed the court.
"From 1986-2019, the LDA was silent. After that, it filed a case [against Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman]," stated Pervez. "The real owners of the plot never complained."
He said that the LDA had never shown concern or complained about the exemption granted to MSR and his power of at torney letter. "The LDA didn't even become a plaintiff in the case," he said, adding that his client had appeared before NAB Lahore and submitted all documents pertaining to the case.
The lawyer said that a reference had been filed against his client in which it had been stated that he had caused a loss of Rs143mn to the national exchequer and had been accused of violating the land exemption policy.
He said that the NAB chairman wasn't even the relevant authority to issue MSR's arrest warrants, adding that there was no evidence that the veteran journalist had sought any personal benefit from any public office holder.
Bar associations condemn MSR's arrest
The Peshawar and Quetta bar associations on Monday joined the apex Pakistan Bar council’s demand for an immediate release of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman, branding the prolonged detention of Geo and Jang group Editor-in-Chief as an attack on media freedom.
The newly elected president of the PHCBA, Khalid Anwar Afridi, had said that MSR is being victimized for reporting the truth and raising his voice for justice and that was not acceptable to the rulers, which is reprehensible.
“Arrest and targeting the editor-in-chief of Jang/Geo Group is not an attack against a person but an attack against the people’s right to know,” a statement by Afridi issued on Monday said.
Afridi said the PHC Bar wholeheartedly endorsed the Pakistan Bar Council’s statement and was glad that legal support was now also being provided to MSR by the bar itself.
“We are confident that the courts will do justice because the arrest of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman is illegal and unconstitutional in a private property case,” he had said.
Afridi continued, “For the first time, a senior and prominent journalist was arrested in a 34 years old case on an allegation based on speculation,” he said, reiterating the commitment that the PHC Bar is with MSR for speedy justice and is standing side-by-side with the journalist community.
He had appealed to the chief justice of the Lahore High Court to take notice of the illegal detention of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman, who has been under detention for the last 114 days.