LHC seeks Pemra’s reply on violation of ban on Altaf’s statements
LAHORE: A full bench of the Lahore High Court on Monday gave four days time to Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) to explain why television channels violated the ban on broadcasting of interviews of exiled Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) chief Altaf Hussain.
Pemra Chairman Absar Alam was ordered to submit a report on enforcement of the ban when he appeared before the LHC bench.
Television channels were ordered to observe a complete blackout of the MQM leader’s speeches in September 2015 after he asked India and other foreign countries to help halt Rangers’ crackdown against terrorism and political violence in Karachi. Many of those targeted in the operation were members of his party. His comments were strongly attacked as ‘anti-Pakistan’.
An LHC full bench, headed by Justice Syed Mazahar Ali Akbar Naqvi, issued the order on three identical petitions, seeking a ban on media coverage of the MQM leader’s speeches.
Several weeks later, however, a number of television channels broadcast the MQM chief’s comments in breach of the ruling. His reaction to money-laundering allegations against him and several other MQM leaders in the United Kingdom was broadcast by news channels in the country.
In November, several petitions were filed with the LHC against the Pemra chairman over his failure to enforce the ban. Since then, he has appeared in the court for six times to explain how effectively the ban had been enforced.
On Monday, during his seventh appearance, he was again given four more days to submit his report by Jan 15.
The Pemra chairman said complaints against TV stations accused of violating the ban have been referred to the regulator’s Council of Complaints in Karachi.
The Council would meet on Jan 14 to assess whether the accused channels had indeed breached the ban. And, if so, what punishment should be awarded to them.
The court also exempted Absar Alam from personal appearance during future hearings.
The next court sitting would also hear the federal government’s evidence about MQM chief’s identity, and whether he is still a Pakistani national and if his reported comments amount to treason.