Release of Rehmat Shah hailed -Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Paksitan Press Foundtion

Release of Rehmat Shah hailed

MULTAN (May 26 2008): Multan Union of Journalists, Editor Council Multan and civil society members have widely hailed the release of Frontier Post Editor-in-Chief Rehmat Shah Afridi describing it a good act.

In their statements President of MUJ Nadeem Shah, former Assistant Secretary General of PFUJ Abdul Sattar Qamar, Multan Press Club President Shakil Anjum, General Jamshed Rizwani, Editor Council’s President Rana Abdul Sattar editor of Medical Round up-demanded the trial of those who were responsible for sending Rehmat Shah behind bars on political victimisation and attempting to destroy his career – who the Punjab government released on Saturday following persuasion by Pakistan People’s Party Co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari – is considered a victim of his ties with Benazir Bhutto and his progressive and independent journalism.

He launched his English daily from Peshawar during the 1985 elections. His newspaper soon became popular, especially in the NWFP and Punjab, because of its progressive and aggressive journalism against the then military ruler Ziaul Haq and pro-establishment political forces. His anti-establishment stance also brought him closer to Benazir and he used to call her his sister. His participation in Benazir’s marriage with Asif Ali Zardari brought him the wrath of her political opponents.

Afridi persuaded the six members of the National Assembly from Fata to support Benazir in forming governments in Islamabad in 1988 and 1993 and backed her through his newspaper. He also introduced an Afghanistan page in his Peshawar-based newspaper when the Afghan war was at its peak. His independent stance amid a highly polarised political environment in Afghanistan – where several actors including Pakistani agencies were involved – ultimately annoyed the powers-that-be.

Besides writing that Zia was a usurper, his newspaper published stories about Supreme Court judges who obtained expensive plots after giving fake affidavits to Nawaz Sharif’s 1990 government – losing favours with the then judiciary.

His newspaper also ran a story in February 1999 about Interior Ministry and Anti-Narcotics Force officials’ ties with drug barons. This allegedly paved the way for his arrest in April 1999 by then Nawaz Sharif government and imprisonment for nine years. He had appealed in high court against his conviction by the special court. The high court commuted his death sentence into life imprisonment in 2004. He then appealed to the Supreme Court but never made a plea to the Musharraf regime. His friends in the media were part of the efforts for his release.
Source: Business Recorder
Date:5/26/2008