A high court in Pakistan on Monday ordered a news network off the air for 15 days, stating that it was “maligning” the country’s judiciary. The step comes amid political turmoil in the country as two opposition leaders have renewed calls for Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to step down, claiming that he committed election fraud.
The Pakistan Media Regulation Authority, or PEMRA, said that it was forced to shut down ARY News because of the Lahore High Court's order, which took up the case on its own, The Associated Press, or AP, reported. The court also ordered the network to pay a fine of 10 million Pakistani rupees ($97,000) and banned the network’s anchor Mubashar Luqman from appearing on any other broadcast.
Luqman was reportedly an active participant in anti-government protests, organized by cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan and cleric Tahir-ul-Qadri, and had even appeared in anti-government speeches outside the parliament along with Khan.
Pervez Musharraf, the country's former military ruler and another of Sharif's political rivals, took to social media to criticize the court's decision.
I strongly condemn the arbitrary and capricious ban by PEMRA on ARY News and ARY News Anchor Mubashir Lucman.... http://t.co/2jEFrneJ3N
— Pervez Musharraf (@P_Musharraf) October 20, 2014
ARY News' viewership ratings had climbed to its highest ever when it took up a narrative against Pakistan's government, surpassing that of Geo TV, the most popular network in the country, AP reported. The suspension of ARY’s license is similar to a ban that Geo TV faced after it reported that the country’s intelligence agency, ISI, was involved in an attempt to assassinate one of the network's anchors, Hamid Mir.
Khan and Qadri are demanding for Sharif to step down and their rallies have brought together thousands of people in their support. Last week, about 7 people were killed in a stampede at an anti-government rally attended by more than 40,000 people.