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Pakistan takes TV station critical of government off air

August 9, 2022

A Pakistani TV station seen as close to former Prime Minister Imran Khan faced disruption after being accused of airing content that was deemed a "threat to national security."

Shahbaz Gill pictured addressing the media in February 2021
Shahbaz Gill (center) was detained by police after making accusations against the government on ARY NewsImage: PPI/ZumaWire/picture alliance

Pakistan's media regulator accused television channel ARY News of airing "seditious" content after a segment with former Prime Minister Imran Khan's chief of staff Shahbaz Gill.

Meanwhile, Gill was detained by Islamabad police, with Pakistani Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah on Tuesday claiming Gill was "seducing people towards rebellion" with his remarks.

Gill is due to appear before court on Wednesday, according to Pakistan's DAWN daily.

Khan also commented on the issue, saying that the arrest of his political adviser amounted to an "abduction."

The former prime minister shared a video of Gill's assistant giving his account of the arrest and showing marks on his neck.

What did Gill say?

In the segment, which aired on Monday, Gill told ARY that the Pakistani government was trying to create a rift between soldiers in the country's powerful military and Imran Khan.

Gill said that ordinary soldiers support Khan and his party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), which enrages the government. He alleged there was a "strategic media cell" within the ruling PML party which was mounting a fake news campaign to harm Khan.

His remarks come as Khan's party and the ruling coalition trade blame for an alleged online smear effort against military leaders. The online campaign was triggered by a helicopter crashing during flood relief operations last week.

Pakistan: Police clash with Khan supporters

The ARY report also suggested that army officers should not obey "illegal and unconstitutional orders" from their superiors.

What is happening with ARY?

Hours later, the channel started facing disruptions. On Tuesday, ARY vice-chief Ammad Yousaf published a page out of a notice apparently issued by the media watchdog, which said the content aired on the station was a "clear and present threat to national security."

The notice said Gill's comments were "tantamount to inciting the rank and file of armed forces towards revolt."

Yousaf slammed the decision to take ARY off air as "illegal and ridiculous," pledging to fight it in court.

The channel was unavailable in many parts of the country on Tuesday — although the AFP news agency said it could still be seen in the Pakistani province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, which is considered a Khan stronghold.

ARY is one of Pakistan's most popular television stations. It has repeatedly clashed with regulators in Pakistan, but was also ordered to pay a large fine in the UK in 2018 over a segment on Pakistani billionaire Mian Mohammad Mansha which contained claims of money laundering.

dj/nm (AFP, dpa)

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