Industrialists, traders, economists slam Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman’s arrest

KARACHI/ISLAMABAD/LAHORE: A cross-section of country’s top industrialists, traders and economists have expressed their serious concerns over the arrest of Jang-Geo Group’s Editor-in-Chief Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman and demanded his quick release. Talking to the Geo News reporter, Riaz Andy they said that by arresting Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman, who was present in the country and his assets are also located in the country, the NAB has set a new unfortunate trend.

Demanding forthwith the release of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman, the industrialist-trader community said the Jang-Geo Group has played a positive role during every crisis confronting the country and is among the foremost opinion makers of the country. They said the Jang Group played a pivotal role in any situation confronting the country ever since the country’s independence. Today, the country is facing COVID-19 pandemic and the prime minister is meeting

the journalist fraternity to create the much-needed awareness in the society. Strangely, the media’s leading Jang-Geo Group, whose Editor-in-Chief was arrested in a 34-year-old property case, was excluded from the occasion which the industrialist-trader community found concerning.

Talking to Geo News, Mian Zahid Husain, President Pakistan Businessman and Intellectual Forum, said Mir Shakil’s arrest by NAB on trumped-up corruption charges appears to be the intent to muzzle the press. He said the business community had informed the prime minister and the CJP that NAB’s harassment is discouraging businessmen from investing in the country. At a time when due to the coronavirus pandemic, the economy is under severe recessionary pressures, it is important not to rattle media organisations where the media workers and journalists would lose their jobs.

Talking to Geo News, A Q Khalil, ex-president, Secretary General Businessmen Group, said the coronavirus pandemic has rattled the entire world and its economy, including Pakistan. At this point of time, Mir Shakil must be released to help the country ride out of this crisis like situation. The role played by Jang-Geo Group and Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman during floods and earthquakes is memorable. His continued detention in an old case based on hearsay is not justified and added that if at all there is some substance in the case, the independent courts can convict and arrest him anytime. He can face the courts while staying in Pakistan as his assets are also in the country and there is no reason for him to escape. If the government has any fear of that, Mir-Shakil-ur-Rahman’s name can be put under ECL.

Talking to Geo News, Shaikh Manzar Alam, ex-chairman KATI, said the Jang-Geo Group’s Editor-in-Chief should be bailed out and let the courts decide his fate which must be accepted by the government and the Jang/Geo Editor-in-Chief. His uncalled-for arrest and the issue being raised at the UN is only hurting the country’s image. Already, the high courts have questioned and expressed serious concerns over

NAB’s unlawful practices and released most of those detained by the anti graft body.

Mehtab Haider adds from Islamabad: Top businessmen of the country have demanded of the government to end the harassment of Editor-in-Chief Jang-Geo Group Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman from NAB and provide him an opportunity of fair trial.

While talking to The News here on Thursday, the President Islamabad Chamber of Commerce and Industries (ICCI) Muhammad Ahmed said that he would term the arrest of Mir Shakil a part of harassment when he was arrested at the stage of verification. When he had appeared before the NAB investigators, it was a violation of NAB’s own Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) that any such person could not be arrested without completion of due process. He said that he would consider it as harassment when Mir Shakil got arrested at the very initial stage. He said that if anyone including businessmen had committed any wrongdoing, he or she should be arrested once the investigation is completed. “We did not support any such move from anyone,” he added.

In his reaction, the President of Rawalpindi Chamber of Commerce and Industries Saboor Malik said that they would not support the arrest of any businessmen at the initial stage of verification. He said that when the SOP was finalized, then the NAB should have followed the agreed mechanism.

Renowned economic experts and representatives of various chambers of commerce also expressed grave concern over the arrest of Jang-Geo Group Editor-in-Chief Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman, terming the arrest was an attack on the free press and sheer injustice.

The businessmen and leaders said the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) and related institutions should work under the law, because their actions should not reflect political victimisation. They said the arrest of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman dented the confidence of the business community that would have negative repercussions for business activities.

While talking to the Daily Jang, renowned economist Dr Ikramul Haq said that parliament and all the stakeholders should come forward to amend and make the NAB’s law more deliverable and justifiable. He said any other situation could lead to more chaos because the arrests of other media chiefs or businessmen may alarmingly increase in future. Dr Ikram said rather than taking action against Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman in a Maula Jutt way, the NAB should have sent a notice to his wife under the prevailing income tax law. He said the officials of the Lahore Development Authority (LDA) should also be investigated in the case how they had permitted it. He asked what action the NAB had been taking against those officials. Dr Ikram highlighted that if the transfer of the property was illegal, then the LDA or related government organisation was responsible for it, saying there was no probe in this regard ever before in the LDA. He said it never occurred in any country what had happened to Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman on account of a 34-year-old case.

Economic expert Dr Qais Aslam said creating chaos in civilised world was never appreciated because it had negative consequences on a society as well as the country. He said Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman’s case clearly reflected the government’s intention to curb the media and taking revenge against him would hurt the government’s credibility.

Economic expert Huzaima Bukhari said Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman’s arrest was a sheer violation of the prevailing justice system and it was needed to check who permitted the deal to purchase the land 34 years ago. She said action should be taken first against the officials who allowed the deal.

Chairman All Pakistan Business Forum Syed Maaz Mehmood said all the stakeholders should review the NAB’s law to remove the option of political victimisation like Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman. He said the justice system should reflect our morality and people’s rights should also be properly protected by the law.

President Women Chamber of Commerce Lubna Behat said it was time to provide relief to the people in such an uncertain situation when the business activities were almost shut down, and any activism by NAB could multiply the miseries. She said the government should not victimise or retaliate against the media over its reporting.

President Lahore Chamber of Commerce (LCC) Muhammad Ali Mian said there was no justification of arrest of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman in a 34-year-old land deal despite his full cooperation to NAB’s investigation. He said the arrest was arbitrary as the allegations were still unclear and arrest or remand was to create fear and harassment among others.

Former president LCCI Suhail Lashari emphasised upon the immediate release of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman, saying the arrest in a 34-year-old case without proper investigation was a miscarriage of justice. He said the justice system should be transparent rather self-motivated.

Former president Lahore Stock Exchange Dr Yasir Mehmood said the business community and the people, including laymen, supported the freedom of press that showed the credibility of the country’s social values. He said the government should stop prioritising the media outlets because it would lead to retaliation.

Former vice-president FPCCI Manzoor Malik said he was in America and observing that the Pakistani community was not taking the government’s decision to arrest Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman positively. He said no civilized society could endorse such retaliation or revengeful actions.

Founder member of American Business Forum Khalid Ahmed Malik said the arrest of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman had no reason in the prevailing circumstances and the NAB should change its behaviour; otherwise, it would leave a negative impact on national and international investment. He said the COAS had promised to change the law of NAB while meeting with the business community in Karachi, adding that the business environment in Pakistan was not favourable and the situation was uncertain.

Newspaper: The News