KARACHI, Pakistan (AP) — Pakistani authorities on Friday revoked a broadcast permit for a private television station after it was taken off air following an interview during which an opposition party official allegedly incited troops and officers against the military leadership.
The development came after ARY TV in the southern port city of Karachi on Monday aired the interview with Shahbaz Gill, a close aide of former Prime Minister Imran Khan and the chief of staff for his Tehreek-e-Insaf opposition party.
In the interview, Gill urged Pakistani troops and officers to refuse to obey “illegal orders” from the military — remarks that were seen by authorities as incitement to revolt. He was subsequently arrested on treason charges and could face the death penalty.
The TV station's news director, Ammad Yousaf, was detained following the interview but then released on Thursday, after an outcry from a media watchdog, rights defenders and top opposition leaders.
ARY has distanced itself from Gill’s remarks, stressing that it is not part of any campaign against the army. Still, Pakistan's media regulatory took the station off air and on Friday suspended its license amid what it described as “adverse reports from agencies.”
The move drew condemnation from journalists and opposition leaders. ARY's founder, Salman Iqbal, also denounced the suspension.
Asad Kaleem, an executive producer at ARY, told The Associated Press that the action means that 4,000 employees at the TV are now without work. He pleaded with the government to reverse its decision and bring the hugely popular ARY back on air.
Khan came to power in 2018, promising to break the pattern of family rule in Pakistan, but his opponents said he was elected with help from the powerful military, which has ruled the country for half of its 75-year history.
After his ouster in a no-confidence vote in Parliament in April, Khan has blamed army chief Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa, claiming the general took part in an alleged U.S. plot to oust him. Washington, the Pakistani military and the government have denied the charge.