Pakistan lifts ban on Imran Khan speeches as police criticised over shooting probe delays

Pakistan’s government has directed its media regulatory authority to reverse a ban on broadcasting former prime minister Imran Khan’s speeches.

In a statement, federal information minister Marriyum Aurangazeb issued the order to Pakis­tan Electronic Media Regu­latory Authority (PEMRA).

“We believe in democratic principles and constitutional freedoms of expression. Banning political opponents, leaders, activists and media has been Imran Khan’s negative thinking and attitude,” she said.

“If Imran Khan wants to speak against political opponents, then let him speak. Let Imran Khan’s speech against us reach the public so that the reality of this menace becomes clear to them,” she was quoted as saying by the Dawn newspaper.

The Shehbaz Sharif government’s decision came days after an assassination attempt on the former prime minister left him with a gunshot injury on his leg.

Last week, Mr Khan was shot in the eastern Pakistan town of Wazirabad as he waved to supporters from the roof of a container truck leading a convoy six days into a march to Islamabad demanding early elections.

The attack killed one and wounded at least 10.

Earlier in August, the Islamabad high court suspended orders from PEMRA to ban the live telecast of the former prime minister’s speeches and observed that the watchdog had “exceeded its authority” and directed PEMRA to appoint an officer who could justify the ban in court.

The media regulatory body had imposed the ban after Mr Khan had criticised police, judicial officials and other state institutions in a speech in Islamabad on 20 August.

Meanwhile, the country’s apex court on Monday directed the Punjab police chief to file a first information report (FIR – the first step of a police investigation) into the attack on Mr Khan and other members of his party.

Pakistan’s chief justice Umar Ata Bandial warned of suo moto action if the FIR was not registered within 24 hours.

“Tell us when the FIR will be registered,” he said, adding that there should a concrete reason for not registering it.

“How will an investigation be initiated without it? And without an FIR, even evidence can be altered,” he added.

A deadlock has continued on the registration of an FIR into the incident after Mr Khan named a senior army official as one of the people behind orchestrating the attack on him.

In his address. Mr Khan named Mr Sharif, interior minister Rana Sanaullah Khan (no relation) and Major General Faisal Naseer, a senior officer in the government’s intelligence agency, of orchestrating the shooting.

He said that despite the passage of three days, the case was not registered as the Punjab police were “rel­u­c­tant to register the FIR”.