LOOKING at scathing criticism of judiciary and military by the media, one could say that media is free otherwise how they could use vitriolic against the institutions. The international media highlighted the court hearing against journalist Cyril Almeida along with two former PMs of Pakistan, and described it as a new pressure on Pakistani media and an attack on the freedom of speech. A few Pakistani media houses have joined the chorus alleging that country’s new government favored by military is using intimidating tactics against the media. Recently, CJP Justice Saqib Nisar’s remarks against Punjab CM and PTI parliamentarians show that Judiciary is unbiased. Anyhow, many believed that Nawaz Sharif’s interview to the journalist Cyril Almeida and earlier the Dawn Leaks were violations of the oath. Shahid Khaqan Abbasi is also said to have violated the oath by disclosing the information of NSC Committee’s meeting.
Hearing the petition filed by Amina Malik of the Civil Society Network seeking action against former two prime ministers on treason charges for allegedly defaming state institutions in an interview to an English daily over 26/11 Mumbai attacks, a full bench of the Lahore High Court (LHC) ordered Nawaz Sharif and Shahid Khaqan Abbasi to submit their replies till October 22. As the proceedings commenced, the bench inquired as to why journalist Cyril Almeida, who had interviewed Nawaz Sharif, did not appear despite issuance of notices. The counsel for Almeida replied that he had not received summons from the court. However, Almeida appeared before the court, following which the bench withdrew the non-bailable warrant that had been issued during previous proceedings to ensure his attendance. The court also directed removal of Almeida’s name from the Exit Control List, which shows that courts are independent and fair.
The question is why the same journalist has always been used to stir controversy by airing news related to Pakistan’s security matters. No country in the world will allow its citizens and journalists to act against national security. In the interview, Nawaz Sharif with reference to Mumbai attacks had reportedly stated: “Militant organisations are active. Call them non-state actors, should we allow them to cross the border and kill 150 people in Mumbai? Explain it to me. Why can’t we complete the trial?” In fact, the trial could not be completed due to India’s non-cooperation. Anyhow, chattering classes are critical of the judiciary to show they are independent. It is worth mentioning that Justice Shahid Aziz Siddiqui has been sacked on the recommendations of Supreme Judicial Council for accusing ISI for interference in his speech before the Rawalpindi Bar council. Hence judges have to pay the price for violating the code of conduct.
Those who propagate that judiciary does not act against generals must remember Asghar Khan’s case. On October 19, 2012, Supreme Court of Pakistan had handed down a verdict of the century in the famous Asghar Khan case. An epoch-making ruling it was in every manner, and fully eventful it must become by carrying to its logical conclusion in line with the roadmap the apex court laid down in its order for execution. No laxity should be admissible on this count. The court had ordered legal proceedings against former head of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) General (Retd) Asad Durrani and former army chief General (Retd) Aslam Baig. Air Marshal (r) Asghar Khan, the petitioner in the case, had alleged that ISI had distributed Rs.140 million among politicians in the 1990 elections to form the Islami Jamhoori Ittehad (IJI). The question is why PPP government and PML-N governments did not ask FIA to proceed against them?
In 2017, Paris-based media watchdog said: “The Pakistani media is regarded as among the freest in Asia but are targeted by extremist groups, Islamist organizations and state intelligence agencies, all of which are on Reporter Without Borders (RSF) list of Predators of Press Freedom.” The question is whether the US and European countries would tolerate extremists and traitors? The question also is why many European countries prosecute and even jail holocaust deniers? Do the Holocaust deniers not have the right to free speech? Presently, some European countries have legislation criminalizing the Nazi message, including denial of the Holocaust. Among others, the countries include Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Spain and Switzerland. Holocaust denial is also illegal in Israel. Some of the countries like Germany and Austria take these laws very seriously and act against Holocaust deniers.
David Irving, the discredited British historian and Nazi apologist, was arrested in November 2005 and was given a three-year prison sentence in Vienna for denying the Holocaust and the gas chambers of Auschwitz. Irving, who had appeared in court carrying his book Hitler’s War – my flagship, 35 years of work” and a PG Wodehouse paperback, had vowed to appeal against the sentence. “I’m very shocked,” he said as he was led back to the cells where he had been held at that time for three months. Very recently in May 2018, authorities in western Germany arrested serial Holocaust denier Ursula Haverbeck after the 89-year-old failed to show up at prison to start her sentence. She was arrested on court orders and sentenced for three years for incitement by denying the mass murder of 6 millions of Jews during the Nazi era in Germany.