Home Politics Journalists Ahmad Noorani and Shahid Aslam Targeted in Controversial Leak Case

Journalists Ahmad Noorani and Shahid Aslam Targeted in Controversial Leak Case

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Journalists Ahmad Noorani and Shahid Aslam Targeted in Controversial Leak Case

In a concerning development, Pakistan’s Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) has implicated journalists Ahmad Noorani and Shahid Aslam in a case involving the alleged illegal access of tax records belonging to former Pakistan army chief Qamar Javed Bajwa and his family, alongside three officials from the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR). This revelation, revealed in a late May investigative report reviewed by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), has raised serious questions about press freedom and government intimidation in Pakistan.

The FIA’s Anti-Corruption Circle initiated an investigation into the FBR officials on December 15, following a November 2022 article on Bajwa’s family assets published on the independent news website Fact Focus by Ahmad Noorani, who contributes to the outlet from exile in the U.S. The article triggered governmental backlash, resulting in the temporary blockage of domestic access to Fact Focus. Noorani, a former senior reporter for The News International, has a history of critical coverage of Pakistan’s military and intelligence agencies.

The FIA’s investigative report, termed a challan, has labeled Noorani a “proclaimed offender” in the case, indicating legal action against him. Despite this, Noorani claims no court summons or arrest warrants have been sent to his listed address in Pakistan. Similarly, Shahid Aslam, a freelance journalist, has been accused in the same challan of allegedly bribing FBR officials to obtain tax data. Aslam, who denies any involvement in the Fact Focus article, awaits a court appearance on July 19 to address the charges against him and the FBR officials.

In January 2023, the FIA arrested Aslam, seizing his electronic devices for forensic analysis. CPJ has urged authorities to drop the investigations into Noorani and Aslam and to return Aslam’s confiscated devices. Despite calls and messages, CPJ has received no responses from FIA Director-General Mohsin Butt or Islamabad Police Inspector-General Akbar Nasir Khan.

Pakistan’s Ministry of Information and Broadcasting’s external publicity wing responded to CPJ’s inquiries, labeling the leak of Bajwa’s tax records as illegal and affirming the legality of the FIA’s actions. However, Noorani and Aslam maintain their innocence, disputing the allegations against them.

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan has expressed concern over the treatment of Noorani, deeming the declaration of him as a proclaimed offender disproportionate. They have called upon the Islamabad High Court to intervene and provide relief to the journalist.

As this situation unfolds, questions persist regarding the protection of press freedom and the rights of journalists in Pakistan, raising broader concerns about government accountability and transparency.

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