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Here’s How Mir Shakilur Rahman’s Incarceration Is A Mockery Of Justice

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Latin maxim ‘Ei incumbit probatio qui dicit’ implies that the burden of proof lies on the person making the allegation, not on the one offering a defence.

This leads to the presumption of innocence which is the major legal protection granted to individuals accused of crimes. If this principle didn’t exist, anyone could be accused of a crime and unfairly imprisoned.

This is what has happened to Mir Shakil ur Rehman, the editor in chief of Jang and Geo, the largest media house of Pakistan. Based on a mere allegation of an irregularity in a 34-year-old property transaction, MSR has been imprisoned for over 6 months without any wrongdoing being proved.

During his incarceration, MSR’s brother and sister passed away. He was unable to meet them during their last moments because he was a victim of NAB’s high handedness.

How strong is the investigation?

While NAB has to prove MSR’s wrongdoing beyond a reasonable doubt, let’s analyse NAB’s case against MSR and determine the strength of this investigation.

 

NAB claims that this letter issued by the Lahore Development Authority (LDA) implies that for the determination of access area, the market price for the land would be used.

 

While this is true, it is important to read the wording of the letter which discredits NAB’s biggest claim against MSR.

 

The letter clearly states that, “From NOW on the market price will be charged instead of the reserve price”. This is important because it means that previously, the reserve price was being charged. The date of the letter is 1990, which proves that in the period before 1990, the reserve price was being used.

 

While NAB believes that this letter shows irregularity on the part of MSR, it actually discredits its entire case!

 

A second letter issued by the LDA is dated 1988. It says that the reserve price will increase from 60,000 to 70,000 PKR. Not only does this prove that the reserve price was used for the determination of access area, but it also proves that the rate at the time was 60,000 PKR, the exact price paid by MSR.

Documentary evidence of the fact that LDA was charging 60,000 PKR per kanal in Jail Road as the reserve price is produced above.

In 2016, when the Johar Town property was being transferred to MSR by his family, LDA reviewed the property to check if there were any irregularities.

A random audit found that instead of exempting 54 kanals and 3 marlas, LDA had exempted 54 kanals and 6 marlas. There was a discrepancy of 3 marlas which was charged at the 2016 market price.

After this, the LDA committee met and reviewed the case. According to minutes of the meeting, 4.6 kanals of access area was charged at the reserved price in 1986 which was the standard of procedure at the time. This is confirmed with the signature of six people on the minutes of the LDA meeting.

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Another NAB claim against MSR is that he acquired land intended for road works however, the following documents prove that Johar Town Phase 2 has no roads in 1986.

Even a simple PC-1 form which is a planning commission form wasn’t finalised in 1987.

This document shows that the first budget allocation for road and development work in Johar Town Phase 2 happened in 1989. Later on, in 1991, the town planning department was reminded by the budget department to send the final demarcation plan which hadn’t been sent by then.

So if there wasn’t any road work, how could MSR’s property acquisition take away the right of away since no roads were completed in the area till 1991?

Article 11 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, states, “Everyone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to the law in a public trial at which he has had all the guarantees necessary for his defence.”

According to the opposition and various other political pundits, NAB is frequently used as a political engineering tool used by powerful players to coerce and blackmail certain people for specific agendas.

While corruption allegations against people affiliated with the PTI led government go unnoticed by NAB, objective journalists find themselves as the victims of frivolous investigations.

Before coming into power, Imran Khan said that he would go after MSR and have him arrested. After coming into power, he fulfilled this promise but broke the promise of ensuring fairness and justice.

NAB went against its own SOPs by arresting MSR in the complaint verification stage, at a time when no wrongdoing was substantiated against MSR.

In order to pressurise the media and force it to ‘toe the line’, the editor in chief of the largest media house has been kept under illegal custody without any proper justification to deter other journalists and media channels.

Allegations of being sponsored by India and Israel have long been made against Geo News but no evidence to support this claim has ever been provided. In fact, in legal proceedings in the past, another media house which broadcast these allegations not only accepted that they were frivolous but also apologised and paid damages for airing these false and malicious claims.

It is surprising to note that all the major parties investigating the case against MSR have actually nothing to do with the 34 year old property transaction.

The complaint against MSR is made by Asad Kharal, a BOL News employee with a history of making false and slanderous statements and allegations against Geo News. Previously, BOL News was the subject of intense scrutiny after it was reported that the parent company of BOL News known as Axact was allegedly a fake degree scam mill.

With bias against Geo News reflecting BOL News and Kharal’s every move, eventually, the complainant asked for MSR’s children to be arrested for this case even though all of them were under 8 years old at the time.

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It is also important to consider why NAB got involved in this case since if any government department should have been involved, it is LDA which raised no objections against MSR.

NAB’s disregard for the law has resulted in many local and foreign investors taking their capital out of Pakistan in fear of being hounded by a biased institution.

In order to improve its reputation, NAB must clarify whether it operates under the law and by a specific code of conduct or does it operate with impunity with no consideration given to the law?

The people of Pakistan deserve to know whether NAB can give a call-up notice to any citizen two days before summoning them? Can NAB refuse to provide any questionnaire without following any due legal procedure/written SOP/Laws? Can NAB transfer a case to the investigation stage on the first day of investigations? Can NAB get a physical copy of the warrant on the same day?

Can NAB arrest an accused within minutes of their interrogation? Can NAB leak images of the interrogation? Can NAB steal personal belongings including one’s phones, wallets and property papers in one’s personal vehicle without obtaining a warrant?

After an accused has been arrested, how long can NAB delay the case before calling witnesses or other accused? Does NAB frequently rely on handwritten, unsigned, unstamped and unapproved documents as the basis of its cases or is this something specific for MSR’s case? Has NAB arrested any co-accused in this particular case?

A glaring example of the vendetta against MSR and Geo News is evident by the fact that a day after MSR was illegally detained, GEO news was taken off the air. Cable operators admitted to being pressurised to switch and disrupt Geo’s transmission. Under what law was this done or was it an attempt to silence Pakistan’s already supressed media?

Not only has Pakistan fallen in the Global Press Freedom Index but Time Magazine has also termed MSR’s arrest as one of the most urgent threats to press freedom in the world.

The United Nations, US State Department, EU diplomats, intellectuals including Noam Chomsky, Reporters without Borders, Committee to Protect Journalists and various other international organisations have asked for fairness in MSR’s trial but the PTI led government continues to have different scales of justice for objective journalists like MSR who continue to languish in jail.

Even PTI members including Fawad Chaudhry and MSR’s worst critics like Mubasher Lucman have condemned the farcical case against him.

At first, MSR was known as the media mogul who maximised editorial freedom in his news desk and offered reporters the liberty to objectively report the news but now, MSR has joined the ranks of Faiz Ahmed Faiz and Sarosh Kashmiri who were imprisoned for their stance of the freedom of the press in Pakistan.

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