Senior journalist and columnist Ayaz Amir was allegedly attacked by unidentified assailants in Lahore on Friday night.
Ayaz, associated with a local TV channel, came under attack when he was returning home from his office in the provincial capital.
The attackers manhandled the senior columnist and also took away his belongings including mobile phone.
Unidentified assailants attacked, slapped, tore clothes, and snatched my mobile phone, he wrote in a Twitter post.
نامعلوم افراد کا حملہ، تھپڑ مارے گئے، کپڑے پھاڑ دیئے گئے، موبائل فون چھین لیا گیا pic.twitter.com/7K93HsAuwv
— Ayaz Amir (@OfficialAyazMir) July 1, 2022
They were cowards who would have come forward if they had been brave, he said in another tweet.
He said his only fault was that he spoke the truth and vowed that he will continue to speak the truth. “Thank you for your support. Allah has commanded us to speak the truth and be with the truthful.”
قصور صرف یہ تھا کے سچ بولتا ہوں اور بولتا رہوں گا انشااللہ pic.twitter.com/GLXd987tZf
— Ayaz Amir (@OfficialAyazMir) July 1, 2022
"As soon as we left the office, a car blocked our vehicle and six people tortured us," Ayaz was quoted as saying by his close associates.
Soon after the incident, SP Civil Lines Raza Safdar Kazmi visited the office of the private TV channel Amir worked for and sought details of the assault from the senior journalist.
The police official assured the journalist of tracing the unidentified assailants and arresting them at the earliest.
Taking notice of the incident, Punjab Chief Minister Hamza Shehbaz sought report from the police chief and directed the law enforcers to ensure early arrest the of culprits.
“The accused should be brought to book and further action should be taken. The incident of violence against Ayaz Amir is reprehensible,” he was quoted as saying in the official statement.
Prime Minister Shehbaz Shairf also condemned the attack on senior journalist and directed the Punjab CM to order a high-level inquiry into the incident. He also expressed sympathy with the injured journalist.
Former prime minister and PTI Chairman Imran Khan also condemned in “strongest terms” the violence against the senior journalist today. “Pak[istan] descending into the worst kind of fascism with violence & fake FIRs against journalists, opposition politicians, citizens. When the State loses all moral authority it resorts to violence,” he wrote on his official Twitter handle.
I condemn in strongest terms the violence against senior journalist Ayaz Amir today in Lahore. Pak descending into the worst kind of fascism with violence & fake FIRs against journalists,opp politicians, citizens.When the State loses all moral authority it resorts to violence.
— Imran Khan (@ImranKhanPTI) July 1, 2022
President Dr Arif Alvi also expressed concern over the attack on senior journalist and analyst Ayaz Amir. “Incidents of violence against journalists run counter to democratic values and freedom of expression,” he said in a statement issued by the Presidency.
The president also directed the authorities concerned to the bring the culprits to book at the earliest.
The attack came a day after Ayaz attended a seminar organised by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) on so called “regime change” conspiracy.
Addressing the seminar, the renowned journalist had lashed out at former premier Imran and other powerful quarters and held them responsible for the country’s economic and social woes.
“Since being kicked out from power you are trying to become Che Guevara… try to learn from your mistakes. You handed over the country to property dealers,” Ayaz had said at the seminar where the ousted premier, Imran Khan was also present.
“We have to protect our country from ‘property dealers’,” he quoted himself as saying at the “Regime Change Conference” in a tweet while sharing a video excerpt from the speech.
ہمارے ملک کو پراپرٹی ڈیلروں سے بچانا ہوگا ،
اسلام آباد ہائی کورٹ کے زیر اہتمام رجیم چینج کانفرنس میں میرا خطاب pic.twitter.com/Nw9rhqP7nG
— Ayaz Amir (@OfficialAyazMir) June 30, 2022
The Human rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) condemned the assault on senior journalist and former parliamentarian Ayaz, saying “another cowardly act intended to silence independent voices. HRCP demands an investigation and those found responsible for this act must be brought to book”.
HRCP condemns the assault on senior journalist and former parliamentarian Ayaz Amir by unknown persons. We see it as another cowardly act intended to silence independent voices. HRCP demands an investigation and those found responsible for this act must be brought to book.
— Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (@HRCP87) July 1, 2022
Anchorperson Kashif Abbasi called the attack on seasoned journalist “shameful and condemnable”. “[The] sad part is that nothing will happen, namaloom afraid [unknown people] will stay namaloom.”
Attack on Ayaz ameer SB is shameful and condemnable.this is beyond absurd and sad part is that nothing will happen, namaloom afraid will stay namaloom
— Kashif Abbasi (@Kashifabbasiary) July 1, 2022
“Better ban freedom of speech through a state decree than beating into silence those exercising the right to free speech enshrined in the Constitution of Pakistan,” said another journalist Kamran Khan while reacting to the attack.
Utterly reprehensible attack on Ayaz Amir one of Pakistan's most respected news commentators in Islamabad. Better ban freedom of speech through a state decree than beating into silence those exercising the right to free speech enshrined in the constitution of Pakistan. pic.twitter.com/fHTm2VCrpE
— Kamran Khan (@AajKamranKhan) July 1, 2022
Host of prime time current affairs programme Arshad Sharif said people with criminal backgrounds have also been ordered to register bogus first information reports (FIRs) against many journalists for questioning so called ‘regime change operation’. “Were criminals tasked to attack Ayaz Amir after historic speech on #RegimeChangeOperation?”
Senior journalist #AyazAmir attacked in #Lahore.The pattern is clear.People with criminal backgrounds also ordered to register bogus FIRs against many journalists for questioning #RCO
Were criminals tasked to
attack Ayaz Amir after historic speech on #RegimeChangeOperation? pic.twitter.com/UPvVvkqH1v
— Arshad Sharif (@arsched) July 1, 2022
Former information minister and PTI leader Fawad Chaudhry said since “imported government" came to power, attacks on journalists have become a norm. “We demand a conclusive probe into the incident… dissent must be tolerated.”
PTI strongly condemn attack on senior journalist @OfficialAyazMir , since #ImportedGovernment took over attacks on Journalists have become a norm we demand a conclusive probe into the incident dissent must be tolerated https://t.co/LS6FadfD0N
— Ch Fawad Hussain (@fawadchaudhry) July 1, 2022
‘Imran Riaz booked for defaming state institutions’
Meanwhile, four first information reports (FIRs) were registered against Express News anchorperson Imran Riaz Khan in different cities of Punjab for allegedly defaming the state institutions.
The cases were regenerated in Gojra, Jhang and Gujranwala police stations under different sections of Pakistan Pencal Code (PPC) and the Prevention of Electronic Crime Act, 2016.
In the identical FIRs, the complainants alleged that Riaz had maligned the image of the state institutions.
Since May 18, police across the country have filed multiple first information reports (FIRs), which open an investigation, against some journalists associated with private TV channels.
The spate of investigations comes amid physical, legal, and online harassment of journalists following parliament’s election of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on April 11, after ousting former premier Imran Khan in a no-confidence vote.
On May 4, PM Shehbaz tweeted that the new government was “fully committed to freedom of press & speech.”
Among other offences, the multiple FIRs all accuse the four journalists including Imran Riaz and Arshad Sharif of violating sections of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) pertaining to abetment of mutiny and publication of statements causing public mischief by criticising state institutions in their journalistic work and unspecified social media posts.
Abetment of mutiny can carry life imprisonment and an unspecified fine, and the public mischief accusation can carry a prison sentence of seven years and an unspecified fine, according to the law.