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ISLAMABAD: Expressing concerns over the recent statement of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman, Imran Khan, in a Faisalabad rally regarding armed forces, the Islamabad High Court (IHC) Chief Justice, Athar Minallah, asked that can everything be put at stake for a “game of thrones”.

A single bench of Chief Justice Athar Minallah made the remarks while hearing a petition of the PTI challenging the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA)’s orders to prohibit the live telecast of the PTI chairman’s speeches.

However, the bench disposed of the petition after the PEMRA’s counsel informed that the Authority had put in place a mechanism to strictly implement the time delay policy and had also issued notices to the channels in this regard.

During the hearing, the IHC chief justice raised concerns over the former prime minister’s statements passed at a rally in Faisalabad.

On Sunday, while addressing a public rally in Faisalabad, the PTI chairman lambasted the PPP and the PML-N, the two major coalition partners in the incumbent government, saying that both the parties were opposing early elections because they wanted to “appoint an army chief of their choice” in November to save their skin in corruption cases.

Justice Minallah, while addressing Imran’s counsel said that you say that someone should be permitted to freely speak when they say that a person is a patriot and another person is not a patriot. He asked can anyone say that a general of the armed forces is not a patriot? Then, he questioned the PTI counsel did you hear Imran Khan’s statements yesterday? The IHC CJ remarked that armed forces were rescuing the people while those statements were made. Can anyone justify those statements?

He asked that was the statement given at the rally constitutional and right? Justice Minallah also asked the PEMRA’s lawyer that whether the authority had taken any measure in this regard. He added that people in authority at times gave irresponsible statements.

The PEMRA’s counsel answered that the authority issued a show-cause to ensure the implementation of the time-delay mechanism in live broadcasts. He said that the PEMRA’s orders were not aimed at a particular person.

Then the IHC CJ said to the PTI’s lawyer let us not make things difficult as your client also made irresponsible statements.

Referring to Imran’s statements at the Faisalabad rally, Justice Minallah asked how can you say in public whether an army chief is a patriot or not? He added that the armed forces personnel were getting martyred and you [Imran] are bringing their morale down.

He made it clear that the recent statement did not even fall under Article 19 (freedom of speech) of the Constitution. He further said how could you avoid a ban when such statements are given.

In response to a query, the PEMRA’s counsel said the authority had put in place a strong time-delay mechanism and also issued notices. The court observed whether the petitioner expected that the court would give him a license for issuing irresponsible statements.

The IHC CJ asked can the country be put at stake for a “game of thrones”. He maintained that do not expect any kind of relief from the court in view of the things happening in the country.

Justice Minallah asked the PTI counsel to undergo self-accountability. He stressed that every citizen was a patriot and no one had the right to issue a certificate of patriotism.

Later, the court directed the PEMRA to regulate Imran’s speeches in light of the rulings of the Supreme Court and disposed of the matter.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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