The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Thursday ordered the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) and capital police to stop harassing ARY News anchor Arshad Sharif and any other journalist.
The court order, a copy of which is available with Dawn.com, directed the FIA’s Director General Muhammad Tahir Rai and Islamabad Inspector General of Police (IGP) Mohammad Ahsan Younas to nominate their authorised representatives to appear before the court on Friday at 10:30am.
The order said that according to Sharif’s counsel Faisal Chaudhry, he was instructed by the anchor last night to approach the court since “he was being harassed”.
It added that the counsel further contended he had not been able to establish contact with Sharif and that there were reasonable grounds to believe that the FIA had “malafidely (sic) and illegally detained the petitioner”.
“The learned counsel has contended that the fundamental rights of the petitioner and other persons engaged in the profession of journalism are being violated by the respondents,” the order said.
IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah presided over the hearing on the anchor’s petition and questioned what the issue was.
“I got a call from Arshad Sharif last night. The story about the prime minister’s visit to Saudi Arabia was broken by Arshad Sharif.
“People went to Arshad Sharif’s house in civil uniform last night. I have not been in direct contact with Arshad Sharif since last night,” the lawyer said.
He said that “illegal actions” were also being initiated against fellow ARY News anchor Sabir Shakir. The lawyer further informed the court that he had been instructed by Sharif to file the petition. The court observed that the petitioner was suspicious of the FIA wanting to illegally detain Sharif.
Following Justice Minallah’s directives to the law enforcement agencies against harassment of journalists, including Sharif, the hearing was adjourned till 10:30am tomorrow.
Earlier, anchorperson Moeed Pirzada had alleged that men in plainclothes, purportedly from the FIA, had barged into Sharif’s house and harassed his family in the early hours of Thursday.
“If FIA has a case, it should send notices — let courts examine; state agencies should not act like criminals!” he said.
PTI leaders also commented on the alleged incident, with former information minister Fawad Chaudhry claiming that a number of journalists were being harassed or subjected to discriminatory action.
“He (Sharif) has had his ups & downs but has never wavered in getting facts to back his stories. That is what hurts those whom he exposes!” said PTI leader Shireen Mazari.
PTI’s Ali Haider Zaidi termed the alleged incident a “pathetic move”.
Veteran journalist Mazhar Abbas, along with others in the media fraternity, condemned the purported harassment.
FIA and govt issue response
Meanwhile, the FIA, in a statement, said that it had “neither arrested nor harassed” Sharif and chalked up the reports as “fake news”.
It said the “propaganda” being spread against the watchdog was “deplorable” and warned of possible legal action against the culprits.
Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb termed the reports about the alleged harassment of Sharif as “inflammatory propaganda against the government”.
According to Radio Pakistan, she said the government was busy tackling economic issues and working for public welfare instead of seeking “revenge”.