Public, not media, blacking out Imran, says Marriyum

PTI's prohibited funding case

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Ijaz Kakakhel

Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb on Wednesday said it was the public, not the media, that was “blacking out” former prime minister Imran Khan.

Addressing a press conference in Islamabad, she said when the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) was asked for data regarding which channels were restricted from covering the PTI’s activities, the body said no such information was available.

The minister was responding to Imran’s remarks at a workers’ convention in Lahore during which he lambasted the purported media blackout of the PTI on mainstream TV channels and questioned why the defenders of press freedom were not standing up against it.

“During our stint in power, 80 per cent of the programmes were against our government. So why is there a media blackout now?” he asked.

Marriyum said that the elections will be held on time and those seeking resignation from the Chief Election Commissioner should have resigned themselves for sending the growth rate to negative.

She said that Imran Khan is afraid of spirit of PM Shehbaz Sharif to serve diligently and the government has changed but the cassette of his speech has not changed.

The former premier should have resigned instead of clinging to power, she said, asking why

the PTI was calling for early elections when the Election Commission of Pakistan questioned it about its funding.

Elections would happen as per schedule, she said. “Imran Khan is not afraid of elections but of Shehbaz Sharif’s performance. He knows that sugar has come down to Rs70 per kg, people are going from Peshawar Morr to Islamabad Airport honourably (on the Metro bus), the 27 power plants that were not functioning earlier are working again.

“They (PTI) know this which is why they are chanting the slogans for early elections. They know that if this coalition government remains and Shehbaz stays as prime minister, it will be the guarantor of employment. There will be no one to take their name, which is why they are afraid.”

Regarding the suicide bombing that killed three Chinese citizens, Marriyum said that the Chinese embassy will be kept updated on the investigation, while foolproof security of Chinese citizens was being ensured and a meeting of NECTA would also be convened immediately.

The minister said that an investigation into the incident has been launched and the laws enacted by the previous government will be reviewed, while a cabinet committee has also been formed to review the laws.

The incumbent government did not believe in censorship and Pemra was always independent during PML-N’s governments, she said. “You cannot do politics by lying. You are being blacked out by the people of Pakistan because of your performance.”

Referring to Imran’s speech at a workers’ convention, Aurangzeb likened the “repetition” to that of a cassette, quipping that the PML-N government could provide the former prime minister with a “good speechwriter”.

Aurangzeb shared that Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif directed for the National Action Plan to be revisited following the suicide attack inside Karachi University, in which four people, including three Chinese nationals, were killed.

In addition, the prime minister had issued directives to immediately summon a meeting of National Counter-terrorism Authority to review the NAP in consultation with provinces.