Former Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) chief Major General Faiz Hameed and his subordinates attempted to influence the policies of private news channels, including Geo News and DawnNews, through illegal orders during the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan’s Faizabad sit-in, said former Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) chairman Absar Alam in the Supreme Court on Tuesday.

Alam submitted a comprehensive report and a statement under an affidavit and after filing a miscellaneous application in the Faizabad sit-in review case, divulging that he and his colleagues at Pemra were pressurised by the then ISI director general and other officers to take action against journalist Najam Sethi and observe a complete blackout for former diplomat Hussain Haqqani on news channels.

He claimed that during the Faizabad sit-in, when the transmission of 92 News was suspended on the request of the interior ministry on November 25, 2017, Faiz Hameed and his subordinates called him thrice inquiring why the channel had been taken off air.

The plaintiff added that the former ISI chief and other officers exerted immense pressure on him to restore the 92 News transmission, otherwise shut down all other news channels as well. He said that despite the coercion, he did not entertain any illegal order.

The former Pemra chairman said that Faiz Hameed and his subordinates used different illegal tactics to influence the news channels that did not toe their line, such as by putting these channels on last numbers on cable networks.

Alam said that he informed the then prime minister Nawaz Sharif, chief justice Saqib Nisar and army chief General Qamar Bajwa in April 2017 about how the ISI was attempting to prevent Pemra from exercising its duties, by harassing and coercing its officials into following their illegal orders.

The plaintiff said that in May and June 2017, he, being the Pemra chairman, had ordered restoration of the affected news channels on their previous numbers over a complaint filed by Geo News and DawnNews under Section 33(a) of the Pemra Ordinance.

The ex-Pemra chairman said that he along with police visited Lahore and Karachi to review the implementation of this order and took action against the cable operators who did not follow it.

He said that on November 25, 2017, the then federal information minister Marriyum Aurangzeb directed him to suspend all news channels’ transmissions during the Faizabad sit-in, but he declined to follow the order because Pemra did not have an authority to do so.

He said after that a directive was issued by the federal government, which ordered the suspension of the transmissions of all news channels in the country. The government withdrew the directive on the following day, he added.

He said that a person heading a state institution attempted to interfere in the operations of Pemra through illegal means, putting the lives of its officers in danger. He added that such attempts continued to occur for two years.

Alam said that a petition challenging his appointment as Pemra chairman was filed in the SC, within a month of the Faizabad sit-in end, which was a like “sword hanging over his head”. The petition was set for a hearing within a month after the end of the Faizabad sit-in and the 92 News transmission suspension, he said, adding that he was removed from the position in 2018 on the apex court orders, and a petition filed by him against this decision was also dismissed after five years without hearing him.

He maintained that during and after serving as Pemra chairman, several cases of sedition and treason were filed against him in 20 cities of the country and he was portrayed as a blasphemer and traitor through a media trial. Later, the Federal Investigation Agency also registered a cybercrime case against him over his tweet about government officers running the affairs of the state.

He submitted that in April 2012, he was shot at in an attack, which he miraculously survived. He said following his removal as Pemra chairman, a blanket ban was imposed on him due to which he could not appear on TV nor write in newspapers. He said that he was rendered jobless through these tactics. He requested the court to make this statement part of the Faizabad sit-in case record.

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