Chief Justice summons Attorney General, Dawn representative on 26th | Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Paksitan Press Foundtion

Chief Justice summons Attorney General, Dawn representative on 26th

ISLAMABAD- On a direct complaint from the management of Herald Publications, Chief Justice Irshad Hassan Khan has summoned Attorney-General Aziz Munshi and also a representative of daily Dawn to a hearing in his chamber on October 26 at 1 pm.

The Chief Justice called the Attorney General to his presence and, giving him a copy of the ‘petition’, asked him to seek “instructions from the concerned authorities” and submit his report by the same date.

In a brief Order passed later, the Chief Justice said he also asked the Chief Editor of Dawn or any other “responsible representative” of his to appear in his chamber on the designated time and elate.

The brief order of the Chief Justice did not say so but it was apparent that he had exercised his suo motu powers under Article 184 (3) and treated the complaint as a petition raising, what the brief order described,

“Serious allegations levelled regarding violation of fundamental rights of privacy and alleged threat to freedom of press”.

The ‘petition’, in the form of a letter addressed by name to the Chief Justice and faxed to him on September 29, reporting that the engineers of the Karachi Electric Supply Company (KESC), Army monitoring team and an Electrical Inspector of the Sindh government had raided their premises two days before, demanding a checking of their equipment and meters.

Signed by Harneed Haroon, Chief Executive Officer and Publisher of the Dawn group of newspapers, the letter spoke of legal notices sent by the Information Minister Javed Jabbar and also a senior official of his Ministry at lslamabad. He said these actions and also the watering down of the Freedom of Information Act draft were clear indicators of a new press strategy being pursued by the “present military regime and the independent policies followed by publications had proved to be the first target of such repressive measures.”

The letter then goes on to narrate the events of Sept 27 when the joint raiding party had invoked the Electricity Act of 1910 for “surveying/testing of the metering equipment” and threatened disconnection in case the publishers declined to assist the team. Concluding the newspaper executive has requested the Chief Justice to look into the case as it endangered the functioning of a free press in Pakistan.

The letter complained that it was becoming “exceedingly difficult for government” to live with a free and independent press in Pakistan. “Of late, the present Military administration has become increasingly hostile towards any criticism whatsoever in the press.” This hostility, the letter says, had manifested itself under various guises in particular with respect to the Dawn Group that has received several direct and indirect warnings that government was preparing for something “significant.”

Source: Business Recorder
Date:10/7/2000