LONDON: Shadow Deputy Leader of the House of Commons and Labour politician Afzal Khan MP has called on Prime Minister Imran Khan to explain why Geo and Jang Editor-in-Chief Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman has been denied basic human rights as a Pakistani while being in custody after arrested by National Accountability Bureau (NAB) in a 34 years old private land buying case.
In a letter sent to the prime minister, the Manchester Gorton has drawn PM Imran Khan’s attention towards the fact that Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman has been in detention for six weeks in a private land purchase case – a deal which occurred nearly four decades ago.
Afzal Khan MP wrote: “It is my understanding that he (Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman) is currently detained over allegations which occurred over thirty years ago. He is also being put before the National Accountability Bureau and not being tried in an ordinary court. As a former lawyer I find this decision problematic, as I believe that everyone has the right to a fair trial. Whilst I fully respect the Pakistani judicial system, I hope Mr Rahman can be granted his basic right to a fair and free trial.”
The Labour MP, who has served in senior positions in the Shadow Labour cabinet and was recently promoted as Shadow Deputy Leader of the House of Commons under new Labour leader Keir Starmer, said that it was clear from the facts of the case that Editor-in-Chief of Pakistan’s largest media group had been denied fundamental human rights in violation of NAB’s own laws on making arrests and investigations.
Afzal Khan MP has told the PM that his several constituents had raised the issue of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman’s arrest with him, requesting him to raise it with the Pakistani government.
Afzal Khan added: “His detention has been challenged by politicians, journalists, lawyers, and human rights bodies across Pakistan and the globe. As the Vice Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Pakistan, I would be obliged if you could look into this matter further and provide any development on his case.”
Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman’s arrest has drawn worldwide condemnation from media organisations to human rights groups and journalist organisations. His arrest has been widely criticised by journalist groups as an attempt to muzzle independent news reporting in Pakistan by the government in collaboration with the NAB authorities.
New York Times said in a report that Geo and Jang’s reporting has been disliked by almost every ruler but the ruling party has shown particular impatience with its coverage and vowed to go after Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman they came in power.
“This arrest over a 34-year-old land deal makes a mockery of Pakistan’s claim to be a democracy that upholds freedom of the press,” said Steven Butler, Asia Programme Coordinator for the Committee to Protect Journalists.
The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, an independent group, has called the case “another attempt to gag a beleaguered independent press.”
Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman has denied allegations that he used political influence to obtain a Lahore property from a private party. Opposition in Pakistan has accused NAB of working at the behest of Imran Khan’s government to make cooked up cases against the people the PM doesn’t like. The governments in Britain, Europe and America have also condemned Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman’s arrest and the draconian methods used to silence Jang and Geo by the government.
Newspaper: The News