LAHORE, Pakistan (AP) — A Pakistani court on Thursday indicted the owner and editor-in-chief of the country’s largest independent group of newspapers and television stations along with two former government officials in a decades-old case related to allegations of tax evasion in a real estate purchase, a defense lawyer said.
Mir Shakilur Rehman is accused of purchasing government land in violation of rules, a charge he denies, according to his lawyer, Amjad Pervez.
Rehman’s Jang Group of Newspapers, which includes Geo TV, has been critical of the government. He was arrested in March 2020 by the National Accountability Bureau in the eastern city of Lahore, the capital of Punjab province.
The bureau was pursuing a 34-year-old case against him over a land sale, one it acknowledges did not defraud the government at the time.
The Supreme Court ordered Rehman’s release on bail in November 2020. The two indicted former government officials were accused of violating rules in allotting government land to Rehman, charges they have also denied.
Rehman has a history of bitter relations with Prime Minister Imran Khan, who even before coming to power in 2018 had said he would have Rehman arrested if he became head of government.
Pakistani media have faced increasing pressure in recent years from state institutions and security agencies. Being a dissident — or even raising a critical voice — has grown more dangerous, regardless of whether the target is a political party, the judiciary or the powerful military and security agencies.