The Pakistani government has "quietly" slapped terrorism charges against six Islamabad-based journalists, holding them responsible for the violence that occurred in Islamabad on September 29 while a large group of lawyers were protesting against President Pervez Musharraf's re-election bid. If the charges are proved, the journalists could face the death penalty or life imprisonment.
The journalists have been accused of obstructing the motorcade of Punjab Chief Minister Pervez Elahi as it tried to come out of the Election Commission, where Musharraf's papers for the October 6 presidential elections were being scrutinised. He was re-elected by a thumping margin.
A first information report (FIR) against the journalists was registered on the direction of Islamabad Inspector General of Police Syed Moravat Ali Shah before the Supreme Court ordered his suspension in the wake of the violence, a media report said on Tuesday.
Although, the name of Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting Tariq Azeem, who was also roughed up during the violence, did not figure in the FIR, "police sources say the real motive behind this drastic action is to settle scores with the journalists", The News said.
The FIR has been registered in the secretariat police station, with station house officer Khursheed Ahmed Khan as the complainant.
The journalists, who have been booked under section 7 of the Anti-Terrorist Act (ATA), as also sections 341 and 149 of the Pakistan Penal Code, are Aslam Khan, Babar Shahzad, Sohail, Irfan, Abdur Rehman and Rehan Shaikh.
The organisations they worked for were not immediately known.
Quoting sources in the interior ministry, the newspaper said it "has been decided at a high-level meeting" that the journalists would be arrested after the inquiry into the violence was completed.
"They may obtain pre-arrest bail from a court of law," it added.