ISLAMABAD: PTI Chairman and former Prime Minister Imran Khan distanced himself from restraints put on media freedom during his government, saying that any journalists picked up by the authorities were not on his orders.
Addressing a seminar on media freedom in Islamabad, he said: “[When I was the prime minister] it was discussed in the cabinet three to four times that some journalist was picked up. [I would like to say that] no journalist was picked up on my instructions. The problem was something else.”
“Until I came into power, I didn’t know the army’s perspective [on the issue] and so I kept speaking against it,” Imran recalled, adding that there was no greater pain than seeing the relatives of missing persons coming to ask about their loved ones.
“We came in the government and got to know that many times people were picked up under [the guise of] national security.”
Imran Khan said that the issue of abductions and missing persons came up after the war on terror, something which he said he had spoken against often.
Imran said he had taken up the issue with Chief of Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa, which led to the release of many missing persons.
“They (military leaders) said the problem was of the courts,” he said, adding that the explanation provided to him was that it was difficult to prosecute a terrorist in the courts due to a lack of evidence or witnesses.
“Terrorism is such a thing that it became difficult to prove it in the courts and the army feared that if they (terrorists) are released they would again conduct [terrorist] activities,” he added.
Nonetheless, he said, an agreement was reached and a bill was about to be passed for missing persons so that at least relatives could be kept in the loop.
Imran said Pakistan stood at a decisive juncture where it was very important for the correct decisions to be made.