- Defence Ministry files reference against Geo News for levelling ‘baseless allegations’ on ISI over attack on journalist Hamid Mir
- PEMRA member says Geo News will face the music after authority meets on April 24
- Gen Sharif makes maiden visit to ISI Headquarters as COAS, appreciates agency’s sacrifices for homeland’s defence
As Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Raheel Sharif visited Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Headquarters in show of solidarity with the agency, lauding its sacrifices for strengthening national defence, the Ministry of Defence approved and sent on Tuesday a reference to the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) regarding Geo News’ allegations against the country’s premier intelligence agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).
Defence Secretary Lt Gen (r) Asif Yasin Malik had sent a reference to Defence Minister Khwaja Asif who approved it and forwarded it to PEMRA. The reference alleges that Geo News had violated the code of conduct set by PEMRA.
According to a statement, the ministry has also provided the authority with oodles of relevant evidence that suggests that the media group is involved in smearing the image of ISI.
“The news channel has breached the code of conduct by accusing director general (DG) of ISI, Lt Gen Zaheerul Islam of masterminding the assassination attempt on senior journalist Hamid Mir,” the statement said.
It further said that action would be taken against the channel’s editorial and management team. “All those who are involved in the mala fide broadcast, riddled with baseless allegations, will be taken to the task,” the statement said.
Meanwhile, another application was filed in PEMRA against Geo News by journalist Khushnood Ali Khan, who said that Geo News violated PEMRA rules when its anchorpersons accused the ISI director general without any concrete evidence.
The application states that the ISI and armed forces of the country are vested with the task of safeguarding the security and integrity of Pakistan, and any attempt to falsely malign them is prejudicial to the security and integrity of Pakistan.
PEMRA Punjab member Mian Shams told a private news channel that the authority has called a meeting on April 24 to discuss Geo News’ “irresponsible allegations” levelled against ISI.
Shams said that the meeting will finalise modalities for a probe in the Geo News affair. He said that as many as three applications were received by PEMRA against the television channel.
Shams said that Geo News could possibly face fine, restriction on broadcast or cancellation of license.
AT THE HEADQUARTERS:
In the meanwhile, the COAS was briefed at ISI Headquarters by the agency’s top brass on the functioning of its various operations and tasks.
Upon his arrival at the Headquarters, ISI DG Lt Gen Zaheerul Islam received the army chief. The COAS was given a detailed briefing on the internal and external security situation of the country and on sacrifices rendered by personnel working for the agency in the war against terror.
The army chief was also given a detailed briefing on the internal security environment, including in Karachi, Balochistan and the tribal areas.
General Raheel Sharif expressed satisfaction over the ISI’s role and operations in relation to national security and safeguarding the country from internal and external threats. He appreciated the role of ISI vis-à-vis national security and lauded the contributions and sacrifices of its officers towards strengthening national defence.
The ISI’s intelligence sharing with national and foreign civil intelligence agencies in countering terrorism also came under discussion during the briefing.
Highly-placed sources said that the army chief’s visit was also aimed at boosting the morale of the premier intelligence agency after it witnessed a series of allegations following an attack on senior journalist Hamid Mir.
Sources said that senior ISI officials had expressed their anger over the allegations that have been recently levelled against the agency.
SHARIF TO MEET SHARIF SOON:
After yesterday’s briefing, General Sharif is expected to meet Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif sometime this week during which the army chief would take the premier into confidence on matters of national security.
Tuesday’s meeting comes just days after the rumblings over a growing civil-military divide. It was also the first ever visit of the COAS to the ISI Headquarters since assuming the command of the army in November last year.
The rift which has been attributed to the trial of former army chief General (r) Pervez Musharraf, statements issued by Defence Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif as well as other factors was beginning to attain near-alarming proportions last week.
It was tackled by meetings between the political and military leadership as well as an explanation by Khawaja Asif who reaffirmed his “support and respect” for the armed forces.
The attack on senior journalist Hamid Mir in Karachi has however put a strain on relations again. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif decided to constitute a three-member judicial commission to probe into the murder attempt on Mir, and also visited the injured journalist at the hospital.
Amir Mir, brother of Hamid and also a journalist, had accused some members of the ISI, including the DG, for the attack, saying the wounded television anchor had felt threatened beforehand.