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Pakistan media tycoon arrested over graft

He was accused of getting illegal concessions in purchase of more than 50 commercial plots in Lahore in 1986

By Nasir Jaffry in Islamabad
  • Published 13.03.20, 2:36 AM
  • Updated 13.03.20, 4:35 AM
  • 2 mins read
Tripura police arrested (Shutterstock)

Pakistan’s accountability watchdog on Thursday arrested a top media tycoon on alleged corruption charges, in the latest move described by Prime Minister Imran Khan’s opponents as an attempt to gag the media.

Mir Shakeel-ur-Rehman, who owns the Jang group of newspapers and Geo TV network, was accused of getting illegal concessions in the purchase of more than 50 commercial plots in Lahore in 1986, a senior official of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) told The Telegraph.

He said Rehman, who was arrested in Lahore, will be produced in a NAB court on Friday where the bureau will put across its position on the issue. “Rehman was arrested after he appeared before the NAB in Lahore,” the official said on condition of anonymity.

The Jang group denied the NAB allegations in a statement issued to the media in Karachi after the arrest.

“The property was bought from a private party 34 years ago and all evidence of this was given to the NAB including the legal requirements fulfilled like duty and taxes,” it said.

“NAB threatened reporters, producers and editors of the group, both directly and indirectly during the past 18 months to shut down the group’s TV channels for showing programmes about the bureau,” the group claimed without explaing the nature or contents of the shows it aired focusing on the NAB.

“The bureau also has through several means tried to persuade us to go slow, to stop stories and to do others in its favour at the expense of the full truth. We will not stop any reporters, producers or anchors from any story that is on merit and at the same time will try to include the NAB’s version.”

A NAB spokesman described the group's allegations as "pack of lies and baseless," in a statement, saying the bureau believes in policy of looking into "cases and not faces."

Former Prime Minister Khakan Abbasi condemned the government for what he said gagging the media and curbing freedom of expression in the country. Senior Pakistan Peoples Party leader Sherry Rehman and chief of the Pashtun nationalist Awami National Party, Asfandyar Wali also bitterly criticised premier Imran Khan for victimising the opposition and said media is being gagged under Niazi-NAB nexus.

Freedom of expression shrunk widely in Pakistan after Imran Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf came to power in July 2018 with media organisations with government resorting to censorship and limiting space for dissent.