Petition in the Supreme Court against PEMRA Ordinance

The Peoples Democracy Institute of the Shaheed Bhutto Foundation filed a constitutional petition in the Supreme Court on June 13, 2007 saying that the public announcement by General Musharaf on June 9, 2007 to withdraw the June 4 amendments to the PEMRA Ordinance had still not been implemented and it was mere a public relations exercise aimed at buying time and not an honest declaration of intent. The June 4 amendments that still held the field were declared unconstitutional.

The petition filed by former Senator Farhatullah Babar said that General Musharaf had during meeting with a representative delegation of the Pakistan Broadcasters Association (PBCA) on June 9 announced to withdraw the June 4 curbs but no official notification has been issued to this effect despite passage of four days.

The petition said that the respondents should be directed to state whether the impugned Ordinance has actually been withdrawn and if not it may be declared unconstitutional and ultar vires of the fundamental rights.

The petition filed under Article 184 (3) of the Constitution has named Secretaries Parliamentary Affairs, Law and Justice, Information and Chairman PEMRA as respondents. It said that the curbs imposed on June 4 amounted to superseding the Parliament and the Mediation Committee of the Parliament set up under Articles 70 and 71 of the Constitution and were contempt of the Parliament. The draconian provisions from the PEMRA Ordnance 2002 had been removed by the Mediation Committee of the Parliament but were reintroduced through back door on June 4.

The petition said that the curbs imposed on June 4 and the restraining orders on live broadcasts were discriminatory as the state run PTV continues to show live the rallies of the ruling coalition and General Musharaf. This was in violation of the Article 25 of the Constitution, which guarantees equality of all before the law. The impugned Ordinance was an effort to foist authoritarianism and stifle the media during the election year. It said that important political decisions such as General Musharaf's bid to seek re-election from the present Assemblies, queering the pitch in general elections by keeping the main stream political leaders out of the arena, retention of the uniform and a overt and covert manipulations of elections are bound to be commented upon most fiercely by an independent media and that was the reason that new unconstitutional curbs were imposed on it.