Pakistan’s electronic media watchdog on Sunday banned satellite television channels from broadcasting live and recorded speeches of ousted prime minister Imran Khan with immediate effect, hours after he dodged arrest and made “provocative statements against state institutions.”
Khan, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chairman addressed his party workers outside his Zaman Park residence in Lahore, saying he has never “bowed before any man or institution.”
He also lashed out at government leaders, alleging they stashed their wealth overseas and were given protection in legal cases by former Pakistan Army chief Gen (retd) Qamar Javed Bajwa.
Islamabad police on Sunday reached Khan’s Lahore residence to arrest him in the Toshakhana case but returned after assurance from his legal team that he will appear before the court on March 7.
Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) referred to previous directives wherein all licensees were directed to “refrain from telecasting any content against state institutions.”
The authority said Khan, in his speech, was “levelling baseless allegations and spreading hate speech through his provocative statements against state institutions and officers which is prejudicial to the maintenance of law and order and is likely to disturb public peace and tranquillity.”
It said airing hateful, slanderous, and unwarranted statements against state institutions is “in sheer violation of Article 19 of the Constitution and a judgment of the Supreme Court”.
It was observed that such content was telecasted by TV channels without effective utilisation of a time-delay mechanism in violation of provisions of PEMRA laws as well as judgments of the apex courts, the regulator added.
PEMRA also warned TV channels that their license would be suspended in case of non-compliance.
This is not the first time that PEMRA has banned TV channels from broadcasting Khan’s speeches.
In August last year, the former cricketer-turned-politician while addressing a public gathering here threatened to file cases against top police officials, a woman magistrate, and the Election Commission of Pakistan over the treatment meted out to his aide Shehbaz Gill, who was then arrested on charges of sedition.
Khan, 70, has been in the crosshairs for buying gifts, including an expensive Graff wristwatch he had received as the premier at a discounted price from the state depository called Toshakhana and selling them for profit.
The Islamabad Sessions court issued a non-bailable arrest warrant against Khan last week and adjourned the hearing till March 7 for his repeated failure to appear before the court.
Television footage on Sunday showed police officials in Islamabad Police uniforms as well as Punjab Police being held back by Khan's supporters outside his residence.
As the Islamabad Police were present outside his residence to deliver the court's order, Khan was speaking at the gathering of those workers arrested in ‘Jail Bharo Tehreek’ (court arrest movement) at his residence.
Khan was ousted from power in April last year after losing a no-confidence vote, which he alleged was part of a US-led conspiracy targeting him because of his independent foreign policy decisions on Russia, China, and Afghanistan.
Since his ouster, Khan has been clamouring for immediate elections to oust what he termed an "imported government" led by prime minister Shehbaz Sharif.
Sharif has maintained that elections will be held later this year once the parliament completes its five-year tenure.