LAHORE: The Supreme Court has given the Punjab police 10 days to complete its investigation over the Zainab rape and murder case and submit a charge sheet.
“We will monitor the proceedings and the Punjab prosecutor general should personally appear before the trial court in this matter,” said Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar.
The three-judge bench, headed by the CJP, on Sunday stopped Zainab’s parents from giving interviews to the media while the investigation is ongoing. The bench also asked them to cooperate with the police during the investigation.
On the other hand, counsel for Zainab’s father Aftab Bajwa showed mistrust in the Punjab police and requested the bench to appoint a serving Military Intelligence (MI) officer as head of the investigation team. The court asked him to formally file an application for such a request. The bench also noted that the DNA report offered strong evidence in this case.
The courtroom, packed with senior journalists and owners of media houses, then saw the bench directing the constitution of another JIT, headed by FIA Director General Bashir Ahmed Memon and comprising two members to investigate the claims of TV anchor Dr Shahid Masood.
However, a written order has not been issued yet. It is expected that the JIT will be given two weeks to submit a report on the veracity of the anchor’s claims that Zainab’s alleged murderer is part of an international child pornography ring and that he holds 37 bank accounts, including those of foreign currency.
During the hearing, Additional Advocate General Asma Hamid told the bench that despite the issuance of a notice, Masood did not appear to record his statement before the JIT constituted by the Punjab government, citing mistrust in Punjab police JIT.
The bench then hinted at passing a coercive order against the TV anchor if he failed to prove his allegations, adding that the court had a couple of options available to take action against him.
“If the allegations are proven true, you will be awarded with accolades for good journalism, but if the allegations are wrong, strict actions will be taken against you,” the CJP said.
The court also warned that his name might be placed on the Exit Control List (ECL).
The chief justice made it clear that they would not accept a judicial commission in the matter, adding that such commissions did not always work well, as noticed in the Saleem Shahzad murder case.
Masood contends that even though he revealed true facts in his TV show, it was not a news report, but information that needed to be investigated.
Justice Nisar said he is the chief justice because this is a democratic country. He noted that Masood had also alleged that a federal minister was involved in child pornography.
Later, the bench summoned top journalists and media owners to come on the rostrum and assist the court.
Several journalists suggested that the bench take action against Masood for giving false news.
Hameed Haroon, Mir Shakilur Rehman, Ibn Abdur Rehman, Mujeebur Rehman Shami, Kamran Khan, Hamid Mir, Fahd Husain, Kashif Abbasi, Mian Amir Mahmood, Sarmad Ali and Zia Shahid had been summoned.
Council of Pakistan Newspaper Editors President Zia Shahid said if neutral investigations were conducted, the truth behind Masood’s allegations could be unveiled. He noted that several incidents of child pornography had been reported.
When asked by the chief justice about his opinion regarding the formation of a JIT by the court, Shahid said an independent JIT should be constituted.
Arif Nizami, the founder and editor of Pakistan Today, told the court that if Masood’s allegations were not true, the statements he made regarding the case would be “equivalent to the death of journalism”.
Anchorperson Hamid Mir, however, stated that if Masood’s allegations were proven incorrect, he should be allowed to seek forgiveness.
“Journalists make mistakes. He should be given the right to forgiveness,” Mir said in the court, later tweeting that Masood “missed his chance to admit his mistake and apologise”.
Anchorperson Naseem Zehra said it was the responsibility of journalists to ensure that the information provided by them was accurate.
Human rights activist IA Rehman said there had been irresponsible attitudes and the punishment should be in accordance with the law.
Earlier, speaking to Express News, Masood had said that investigating the authenticity of any claims he made was not his responsibility. “I did not provide this information with any wrong intent,” he said.