The Islamabad High Court (IHC) suspended on Monday the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority's (PEMRA) notification banning live telecast of former premier Imran Khan's speeches.
IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah, while hearing the ex-prime minister and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chief's plea challenging the ban, observed that prima facie it appears that PEMRA exceeded its authority. The IHC sent a notice to the PEMRA and the attorney general of Pakistan.
Justice Minallah further added that, "In the current situation, there is no proper reason to ban Imran Khan's speech. The PEMRA has no power to issue any such restraining order."
The court further directed PEMRA to nominate an officer to appear and explain the issuance of the notification, suspending the notification till the next hearing scheduled for September 5.
'Can Imran's speech be justified?'
During today's hearing, PTI lawyer Ali Zafar argued that, "Today Imran Khan is raising funds for flood victims, especially from overseas Pakistanis. However, he has been banned from giving a live speech. PEMRA's notification says that Imran Khan's speech is against national interest."
The court then directed to read PEMRA’s notification according to which Imran had threatened the IG, DIG and Additional District and Sessions Judge Zeba Chaudhry. After the notification was read out the court observed, "Do you justify Imran Khan's speech. Freedom of expression is protected by the court but some things fall outside of it."
Questioning the PTI’s accusations of torture on PTI leader Shahbaz Gill, Justice Minallah said that "How many cases of torture that came up during the last three years – during the PTI’s government - were sent to the cabinet? Don't you think torture has been ongoing since the past three years? A journalist was picked up from Lahore and severely tortured, can the subordinate judiciary be threatened in this way?"
"For the past three years it has been the policy of this court to improve all courts. However, I say with a heavy heart that this behaviour was never expected. Had PECA (Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act) not been repealed, everyone would have been arrested under it,” Justice Minallah stated.
The IHC CJ said that “the current government which had been affected in the past three years is itself doing the same thing”.
Speaking of the ‘warning’ issued to sessions court judge Zeba Chaudhry by Imran, Justice Minallah said that: “Considering the current situation of our society, it is not easy for a woman to work.” He asked the PTI’s counsel whether he could justify the words used by a leader of this stature.
“A leader has a huge responsibility because he has a large following. We have always shown restraint, but there should be a red line somewhere,” the IHC CJ said.
"Torture is a separate issue. You ruined this debate,” Justice Minallah told the PTI’s counsel. “The case of Baloch students came before this court, was that not torture? Is there no torture in police stations every day?” he added.
Justice Minallah decried the language used against a judge, said it was unexpected. “The biggest loss in all of this is of the person whose case is ongoing," said the chief justice.
Responding to the IHC CJ, the PTI lawyer said that, "We completely agree with you that this should not have happened."
To this, the chief justice IHC said, "Which executive has addressed the issue of torture? This court has passed orders in the last three years that the police should implement the order, but you ruined the entire debate,” Justice Minallah observed, adding that a petition regarding the matter of torture should have been brought in court. “There was a procedure present to deal with the allegations of torture," he stated.
Earlier today, the petition was filed by the party chief’s lawyers who requested the court to set aside the order of the ban.
“While referring to the violence against party member Shahbaz Gill, Imran had requested to take legal action against those responsible,” the petition read.
It furthered that as a citizen the law has given the right to take legal action and that the PTI chief’s speech was mistaken as hate speech.
The petition added that Imran’s stance to call for legal action against those responsible in Gill's "torture" does not fall under hate speech.
Earlier, the PEMRA had imposed a ban on broadcasting live speeches of the PTI chief on all satellite TV channels with immediate effect.
The regulatory authority’s decision came after Imran warned the IG and DIG of Islamabad police during a protest rally in Islamabad.
During the rally he said that he will not spare them and register a case against them for “torturing” party leader Shahbaz Gill during physical remand.
He also called out Additional District and Sessions Judge (ADSJ) Zeba Chaudhry for approving police request of physical remand despite knowing that Gill was subjected to “torture”. “We will not leave you [Zeba] and will also file a case against her.”
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