Define ‘Patriotism’ Before Charging People With Sedition, Senate Committee Tells Govt
The Senate functional Committee on Human Rights has told the government that patriotism must be defined before slapping charges of sedition on citizens.
The committee was reviewing the matter in which cases against rallying students of the Students Solidarity March were registered. The Committee stressed that this matter must be resolved amicably and all charges against Mashal Khan’s father, Iqbal Lala, must be dropped.
Academic Ammar Ali Jan, who was among the participants of the Students Solidarity March, added that Punjab University Chief Security Officer Colonel (r) Obaid was harassing students and their families through telephonic and direct communication.
He added that he did not speak on the occasion but was still nominated in the FIR. He further said that they would continue their struggle for the rights of students within the limits of the constitution.
Jan further added that they were gathering people from various territories to show a democratic Pakistan.
The DIG Investigation, on behalf of IG Punjab, assured the committee that an amicable solution would be sought.
The Committee asserted that it took very seriously the allegations of harassment made against chief security officer of PU and stated that these must be investigated thoroughly.
On the attack on Dawn’s Office
Moreover, the committee condemned the siege of Dawn’s office by a mob and added that they never allow any individual or group to put pressure on media.
The chairman of the committee added that freedom of expression was facing various curbs. Discussing the besieging of Dawn’s office in Islamabad, the committee took strong notice of the matter and was of the view that this was a dangerous trend and must be curbed.
Members of the committee said that considering its fearless reporting, Dawn was a small ray of light in the country, which must be preserved.
It was further emphasised that if the protesters were of the view that Dawn misreported an event, the matter should have been taken to court.
The committee directed that this was an important issue and as requested, the organization must be given ample security. Committee members were of the view that there was a a strong perception nationally and internationally that media in Pakistan was being stifled; the committee emphasised that it would play its role to curb this trend.
The committee also stressed the need for law enforcement agencies to identify the protestors and check whether or not there was a criminal connection.
The DIG operations, while briefing the committee, added that they responded on time after getting a call from Dawn and negotiated with the protestors. The police official further added that Dawn didn’t file an application for action against the protestors, which was why no action was taken against them.
Deputy Commissioner Islamabad told the committee that they were not aware of whom the protestors were associated with. The committee directed DC Islamabad to furnish an inquiry and identify them.
Moreover, Farhatullah Babar, while briefing the committee added that the bad days of Dawn had started some two years ago when the paper published a story of the commercial entities of the military in the country followed by the Dawn leaks. He added that the protestors were sloganeering in favour of the state’s premier intelligence agency but till now, they (the agency) haven’t dissociated themselves from protesters through any clarification.
On suspected child rapist Sohail Ayaz’s hiring by World Bank
The health department of the KP government, while briefing the committee, said that financial consultant Sohail Ayaz, who was arrested by the Rawalpindi police for suspected child rape and links to an international pornography ring last month, was not an employee of the KP government, but was hired on directions of the World Bank.
Officials from KP’s health department added that the World Bank provided an NOC for hiring Sohail Ayaz as a consultant twice. The committee asked for proof of the claim, upon which the health secretary presented both NOCs given by the World Bank to the chairman of the committee, Senator Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar. In response, the chairman added that the committee would summon World Bank officials on the issue.
The author is a reporter based in Islamabad.