Editor-in-chief of Jang Group Mir Shakilur Rahman was arrested in Lahore by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) on Thursday in a case pertaining to the purchase of a 54-kanal piece of land, said bureau spokesperson Nawazish Ali.
Rahman had appeared before NAB for the second time on Thursday to answer the bureau’s questions about the land in question. He was subsequently arrested after failing to satisfy officials with his answer.
According to NAB, former prime minister Nawaz Sharif had illegally leased the land to Rahman in 1986.
NAB will produce Rahman in front of an accountability court tomorrow for his physical remand.
According to the notice issued on February 28, a copy of which is available with Dawn.com, Rahman had been called to appear before NAB on March 5 to record his statement regarding the land allotted to him in 1986 in Block H, Johar Town Phase 2 “by then chief minister Punjab Mian Nawaz Sharif in violation of the relevant laws and rules”.
According to an official statement issued by the Jang Group, the property “was bought from a private party 34 years ago and all evidence of this was given to NAB”.
The statement maintained that today’s appearance was for the verification of the complaint, yet Rahman was arrested. It also accused the anti-graft watchdog of harbouring a vendetta against the publication.
“During the past 18 months, NAB has sent our reporters, producers, and editors […] over a dozen notices threatening to shut down our channels […] due to our reporting, and programmes about the anti-corrupton watchdog.”
“NAB has also, through several means, tried to persuade us to go slow, to stop stories and to do others in its favor at the expense of the full truth.
“We will not stop any reporter, producer or anchor from any story that is on merit, and at the same time will include NAB’s version,” the statement read, adding that the bureau has denied all the allegations and claimed they are independently pursuing all cases.
On March 5, The News had reported that Rahman had appeared before the anti-corruption watchdog and had informed the bureau that he had purchased the land from a private owner and that he possessed evidence of the same.
Rahman had said that he was hopeful that the watchdog and the courts would decide the case fairly.
Speaking to the media outside, he had said that similar accusations had been levelled against him in the past as well but had been proven to be false.
PML-N vice president Maryam Nawaz, while speaking to reporters in Islamabad, said that Rahman’s arrest “shows how scared they (government) are of the media”.
“This crackdown on the media is not new, it’s an old [tactic]. Honest news anchors were targeted and sidelined and today you have arrested the head of a media house […] This might block the news but it will not block the truth,” she said.
Former premier Shahid Khaqan Abbasi also condemned the arrest and said that it was a “black day for press freedom”.
“I have always spoken about NAB and have said that it has become a tool for political engineering, suppressing opposition and media,” he said. “I ask you today, why is it that you arrest people? Islamabad High Court asks the same question but you don’t have an answer.
“What questions did you have for Mir Shakilur Rahman that you had to arrest him? What is the reason behind the arrest of a man who is one of the most renowned personalities of this country, who lives abroad but visits, has a presence in the country? It is only to show that whoever speaks will be arrested.”