Pak media mogul held in land allotment case, summons Sharif

Tuesday 17th March 2020 16:12 EDT

Islamabad: Pakistani authorities arrested a media mogul under country's anti-graft law in a three-decade-old case even as the investigating agency has summoned former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif for questioning in the same case. Mir Shakilur Rehman allegedly got lands on a prime location in Lahore at a throwaway price in 1986, from then Punjab chief minister Nawaz Sharif.

Rehman, the editor-in-chief of Jang/Geo media group, was arrested by The National Accountability Bureau, after he failed to submit a satisfactory answer to the bureau’s questioning session of long ongoing investigation against him. The media house has been accused of leading support to propaganda in favour of Sharif.

The arrest was made by the NAB at its Lahore headquarters during Rehman's appearance before a joint investigation team of the agency. Rehman allegedly received 54 plots, each measuring one kanals land on a prime location in Lahore from former prime minister Sharif on a throwaway price, maintained NAB. According to investigation, the 54 plots in Jauhar Town H block were illegally given away to Rehman by Sharif in an act of misuse of his powers as Chief Minister.

Nawaz Sharif had obliged Rehman to have his media's support in return, the NAB investigation report revealed. The Jang/Geo group said in a statement that the property in question had been acquired from a private party and all evidence of this was provided to NAB including the legal requirements like duty and taxes.

The media company has accused the NAB of sending its reporters, producers and editors, directly and indirectly, over a dozen notices, threatening for a shutdown through Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority. According to the media company its reporting and programmes about the NAB has irked the agency. In its defense, the NAB has in writing said it is a constitutionally protected institution that cannot be criticised. The NAB has also been accused of trying several means to persuade the network to go slow, to stop stories and to do others in its favour at the expense of the full truth.

Despite arrest of its chief, the media house has maintained that it will not stop any reporter, producer or anchor from any story that is on merit and at the same time will try to include NAB’s version as well. In this case, NAB denies all allegations and claims they are independently pursing all cases and have not been asked to do by the democratically-elected Government in Islamabad, their statement said.

During his election campaign in 2018, Prime Minister Imran Khan had said he would put Rehman behind bars for blackmailing and tax evasion. Media has been facing 'severe curbs' since Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf came to power after July 2018 polls.

Meanwhile, NBA has summoned Sharif on March 20 in connection with the same case. Sharif would have to record his statement in front of the NAB. Currently, Sharif is in London for treatment after being granted bail on medical grounds. Before being granted bail, Sharif was serving jail time of 10 years after the NAB found him guilty of money laundering.

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