LAHORE: An accountability court on Saturday extended the physical remand of Jang/Geo Media Group Editor-in-Chief Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman by 10 days in a case pertaining to the purchase of a piece of land more than three decades ago.
The veteran journalist had appeared before the accountability court today after his remand had expired.
During the hearing today, the special prosecutor requested the court to extend MSR’s physical remand by 15 days.
As MSR’s counsel, Amjad Pervez, said that he had only just received a copy of the remand extension request, he needed time to prepare.
The court granted the defense counsel’s request and briefly adjourned the hearing.
After the hearing resumed, the NAB prosecutor told the court that the accountability bureau had summoned different records concerning MSR.
“There are certain SOPs regarding getting documents from the government departments,’ he said. “As we keep getting the documents, we will keep proceeding with the investigation.”
“We have requested some more documents from LDA,” he added.
To this, MSR’s counsel remarked that international media was also following what was happening to the senior-most editor of Pakistan’s largest media group.
Moreover, he opposed NAB’s request to extend his client’s physical remand.
“NAB is wasting the court’s time. MSR has met all NAB officers till now and the investigation is now complete,” he argued.
All his records have been with the investigating officer from day one, Pervez told the court. “At this stage, NAB does not need to extend his physical remand,” Pervez said.
“As mentioned earlier, NAB has all the relevant documents, but the accountability bureau is making excuses about a lockdown to mislead the court. MSR has cooperated with NAB with whatever they have asked,” he added.
Pervez further said, “People do not normally go to NAB after receiving a call-up notice, but Mir Shakil-ur-Rehaman did. The organisation has never run anything against the court.”
“If something like this happens, I will surrender to the court before MSR,” Pervez said.
After hearing the arguments from both sides, the court reserved its judgment on the extension of the remand.
Arrest on trumped-up charges
MSR was arrested by NAB on March 12 on trumped-up charges relating to property purchased more than three decades ago. A petition was filed shortly afterwards against the arrest.
An accountability court had then extended his physical remand, after which a separate petition was filed against the extension. The petition had argued that no reason was provided by the court for the extension in remand.
The original petition, filed by MSR’s wife Shahina Shakil, had stated that MSR had been cooperating with officials and the arrest was a flagrant violation of the standard operating procedures (SOPs) of the accountability watchdog.
The petition had requested that the court declare the arrest and abuse of the NAB chairman’s authority, as the arrest was made while the case was still in the process of verification.
The petition further argued that NAB had violated the 2019 businessmen policy introduced by the Government of Pakistan by arresting MSR.
It further said that the extension in remand of MSR by the accountability court hearing the case should be declared null and void, along with the decision to arrest him.
According to a Jang Group spokesperson, the property was in fact bought from a private party 34 years ago and all evidence of this was given to NAB and legal requirements fulfilled, such as duty and taxes.
MSR’s arrest has been slammed both locally and internationally as the latest attempt by a heavy-handed regime to suppress dissent.