The noticed stated that the number of missing children was “less than one third that you (Hamza) reported”. Furthermore, it also claimed that Hamza’s post “was exaggerated and it created a sense of insecurity in the general public”.
Hamza disclosed the situation through a Facebook post on the very same day.
Hamza Abbasi maintained the stance that he studied newspapers along with tweets of notables including PML-N MPA Hina Butt and PPP leader Asifa Bhutto Zardari. He claims that action should be taken against the sources instead of him, if the numbers fail to reach a total of 900.
Hamza gave his own response to the allegations made against him. From slamming the first family of terming Panama leaks as a bunch of lies to talking about democracy, he did not hold back.
Here’s what he had to say in response to the notice:
Respected Mr Mahmood Hassan.
Additional Secretary Prosecution,
Government of Punjab.
I chose to write back myself rather than have my lawyer do that because i am deeply saddened as a citizen of Islamic Republic of Pakistan. All legal matters and aspects aside, your warning letter has had a personal impact on me as i can see that the Democratic values we had fought so hard to establish and still fight to protect, are under threat and your warning letter is the first step towards making Pakistan a ruthless Police state hell bent on curbing any voice against the ruling Government. Let me clarify my position on the matter under discussion.
Sir, with regards to the allegation that you have put forward that i fuelled rumours in my 3rd August FB post about 900 children being abducted which, in your words, spread fear in the public, i would suggest that you ask your team to kindly write “children abducted in Punjab” on a search engine called “Google” which is available for public use.
You will come across various sources, including multiple Tweets tweeted on 2nd August of an esteemed Punjab Govt MPA Hina Butt, later tweets of Asifa Zardari on 7th and 8th Aug and various (pre and post 3rd Aug) articles of credible newspapers which give the number of “Abducted” children from 250, 600, 750 and even 913.
So if what i said was a “Rumor” and the numbers were much less, then i very humbly suggest you take action against the above mentioned “Sources” of this news before taking action against me, who based my facts on these sources.
However, may i dare also say that if the Govt believes that i or any of these sources have spread news based on inaccurate facts, then the job of a “Democratic” Govt is ONLY to clarify the facts in front of the people. The last time i checked, there was Democracy in Pakistan, and in a Democracy a Govt does not send notices to individuals accusing them of getting the facts wrong and asking for apology by threat of legal action.
Thirdly, as you have taken the liberty of quoting Quran while trying to tell me that spreading rumours is a sin, i think we both agree on that and believe me when you are a media person subject to all kinds of rumours, you realise why it is a sin. But who decides what a rumour is? I am aware of the statistics that IG Punjab presented. You are saying I spread a rumour and the Govt and IG Punjab is right, i say that the news outlets are right and the Govt is spreading rumours to maintain a good image in the public. Other examples of rumours that i think Government is spreading is that Nawaz Sharif and his family are not corrupt and the facts in Panama Leaks are all lies, but then again, you and the Govt have the right to disagree with me just like i have the right to disagree with you and the Govt.
So lets keep it to a “Disagreement” and not make it a point to demand apology or threats of legal action, because if things are to go in that direction then i will make it a point of my very existence to fight for my right and for what i think is right, even if it takes years and even if the opponent is the Govt machinery.
You have made a very subjective claim in your letter that the “Government makes all out efforts to trace the missing children and bring them back home to their parents.” I tend to disagree with you on this and i believe and have experienced that the Government institutions, especially the Police, can be very insensitive and they infact DO NOT MAKE AN ALL OUT EFFORT TO GIVE JUSTICE. Am i wrong to disagree with you on this? Did you mention any undeniable facts from foolproof sources to support your subjective claim?
Or am i to willingly or unwillingly agree with you only because you represent the Government? You have a public office run by the tax money of the people, you are suppose to serve the STATE, is it befitting to your stature to even try to justify or even glorify a political Government? Let me elaborate further:
Me and my relatives and friends have been victims of injustice of Govts where we have been refused FIRs and denied investigations, Police corruption is a matter known to all of us. If their is an outcry among the public on kidnappings of children, then instead of blaming it all on rumours and sending notices to people like me, it will be helpful if the Govt concentrates on the root cause of these rumours, maybe…..just maybe the Police is hiding the facts and children are actually being kidnapped on a massive scale.
After all, there is fire where the smoke comes from, there has to be an objective reason behind all those videos of children being abducted and various incidents where kidnappers have been caught by the public, all of these events being shown on television. If the Govt will concentrate on resolving the issues rather than trying to silence people like me just because i stated some facts that the Govt thinks are exaggerated, maybe the outcry will fizzle out when people actually do feel secure.
Last but not the least, as you mentioned Quran, let me also take the liberty of quoting the beloved last Apostle and Messenger of Allah Prophet Muhammad (PEACE BE UPON HIM): Narrated by Muslim, 49: “Whoever is a believer and sees a wrong, then let him stop it by hand, if that can not be done then SPEAK AGAINST IT, even if that cannot be done then atleast think of it as wrong as there is no lower level of belief than this”. I feel that whatever fame and audience Allah has bestowed on me, is a heavy burden.
When i have an audience which listens to me, i have an obligation to speak out against what i see is wrong. I have put my media career at stake and my life under threat by speaking out against “Wrongs” i see around me. I do this in a hope that when i stand before my Lord, i can tell him that the fame he bestowed on me, i tried to put it to good use.
In a nutshell, NO i shall not apologise for speaking up for, what i believe, is the truth as it is an obligation on me as a Muslim and my democratic right as a Pakistani. If you think my figures are exaggerated, i shall welcome if the Government wants to clarify the figures to me with conclusive evidence but by no means i shall be subjugated with threats of legal action.
In the wake of Cyber Crime Bill, your office and the Govt has a brilliant opportunity to take down all the individuals and organisations who are spreading sectarian, religious and ethnic hatred, harassing women and threatening to even kill people on social media. Hope your team also looks into these kind of offences which i think are much bigger than the things we are focused on in our correspondence.
Hamza Ali Abbasi,
(Posted to the Additional Secretary Prosecution’s office on September 3rd, 2016)