KARACHI: Dismissing the plea of Labbaik Private Limited (Bol TV), the Sindh High Court on Friday directed the four new directors of the enterprise, who include Axact CEO Shoaib Shaikh and his wife, to once again obtain security clearance from government agencies.
Announcing its judgment on the petition, the two-judge SHC bench headed by Justice Sajid Ali Shah lifted a stay order obtained by Labbaik with respect to the cancellation of no objection certificates (NOCs) issued by the interior ministry for security clearance as well.
It also directed the interior ministry to process the credentials of Labbaik’s directors for security clearance as required by law.
It should be noted that during the proceedings of the case, Additional Attorney General Salman Talibuddin had pointed out that the same individuals were serving as the directors of Axact-Bol Enterprises and Bol News. Both companies, Salman contended, were illegal companies.
Labbaik Pvt Ltd had received a license for a channel in March 2013. On July 4, 2013, however, Pemra withdrew the NOC given to Labbaik in the absence of security clearance. In response, Labbaik obtained a stay order against the cancellation of the NOC on July 8, 2014. Using the stay as a cover, Labbaik then went on to build a Rs3 billion business empire.
In his arguments before the court, the additional attorney general questioned how Labbaik was able to make purchases which exceed Rs10 million when its paid-up capital stood at just Rs500,000. He also pointed out that even though under the law, any channel in Pakistan cannot be owned by a foreign national or entity, more than 600,000 of Bol’s shares were owned by a company based in Dubai.
The Pakistan Broadcasters Association had to approach court because Axact CEO Shoaib Sheikh and others have levelled many allegations against BPA members in which it is said that the broadcasters association has a role in the fake degree scandal. The PBA wants to clear its position that all the allegations are unfounded.
During the hearing, PEMRA had taken the position that security clearance is a must for issuance of NOC to a TV channel and that a foreigner can also not be issued the licence under the rules. Labaik Private Limited had been issued the NOC without security clearance and upon knowing this fact their NOC was rescinded. PEMRA holds that Axact cannot be given NOC without security clearance.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 4th, 2015.