Pakistan's judicial crisis deepens as police attack and seal private news channel

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Pakistan police stormed the offices of television news broadcaster Geo news in the capital city using tear gas and firing rubber bullets in the building.

Police personnel charged into the facility batons drawn and thrashed offices and attacked the staff of GEO News and its sister affiliates the The News International and Jang newspaper, forcing the channel to go off air for more than six hours on Thursday.

The news channel's attempts to go on air from the port city of Karachi, some 2700 kilometers away, were thwarted by the pro-Musharraf government of Sindh.

Bomb disposal squad backed by federal paramilitary force stormed the Karachi office forcing an immediate evacuation of the premises. The bomb disposal squad took two and half hours to conduct an office to office sweep of the five story building, resulting in damage to computer and camera equipment.

Geo News continuously airing a prerecorded loop of prayers asking God to bless the nation and guide the leaders by granting them mental abilities to make proper decisions in critical times. The loop also continuously showed the footage of the nation's founder, Qaid-e-Azam Muhammed Ali Jinnah, addressing the first constituent assembly of Pakistan and promising freedom of speech and press, along with clips from riots and military bombing of the former East Pakistan (now Bangladesh).

President Pervez Musharraf came on live phone call within minutes of resumption of transmissions and said, “I apologize for what has happened, I see this as a conspiracy to uproot my government.”

General Musharraf came to power after a blood-less coup in 1999 by overthrowing the democratically elected government of Nawaz Sharif, charging the government with corruption.