Two private members of Pemra file petition | Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Pakistan Press Foundation

Two private members of Pemra file petition

Pakistan Press Foundation

ISLAMABAD: Two private members of the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) filed a petition in the Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Saturday against the appointment of Mohammad Pervez Rathore as acting chairman of the watchdog.

Mr Rathore was appointed as acting chairman on June 5 and a day after assuming the charge he ordered the suspension of Geo News TV channel’s licence for 15 days and imposed a Rs10 million fine for defaming the Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI).

Private members Israr Abbasi and Fareeha Iftikhar were issued show-cause notices after they announced on May 20 suspension of the licences of the three channels of the Geo TV network. Pemra’s executive member Kamaluddin Tipu disowned the announcement.

Mr Abbasi and Ms Iftikhar said in the petition that that they had receive an SMS after 5pm on June 5 from Pemra Secretary Nasir Ayub that the chairman was convening a meeting and they learnt through a news channel the same day that Mr Rathore had been appointed as acting chairman of the authority.

The petitioners said there was no provision for appointment of an acting chairman in the Pemra Ordinance of 2002.

They alleged that the respondents — secretaries of the cabinet division and information and broadcasting and Mr Rathore — “under the influence of the government want to sabotage the decisions of the authority and proceedings of Pemra on the issue of the ministry of defence versus Geo group”.

The petition said the previous government had appointed Dr Abdul Jabbar as acting chairman of Pemra but the Supreme Court set aside the appointment in 2012 and observed: “It is to be noted that the Pemra Ordinance does not provide for the position of acting chairman.”

It said the cabinet secretary had no authority to issue a notification for the appointment of Mr Rathore as acting chairman of Pemra.

The meeting called by the Pemra secretary soon after the appointment of Mr Rathore was illegal and its recommendations liable to be set aside, it said.

The petitioners requested the court to declare illegal the appointment of Mr Rathore and also his decision of imposing fine and keeping Geo TV off air for 15 days.

According to the IHC website, Justice Noorul Haq N. Qureshi will hear the petition on Monday.