The organisers of a conference in Lahore condemned the alleged "muzzling" of former Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's speech, as internet services at the venue were reportedly suspended soon after his address began, Dawn news reported.
The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) supremo began his speech which was relayed from London via video link during the closing ceremony of the keenly watched conference held in Lahore by paying tribute to the late celebrated lawyer and human rights activist Asma Jahangir. But the live stream abruptly stopped shortly after.
Munizae Jahangir, Asma's daughter and one of the organisers, confirmed to Dawn news that broadband internet services and mobile internet had been suspended soon after Sharif began speaking.
In a statement issued after the event, the organisers regretted what they termed "the state's high-handedness" for allegedly blocking the former premier's speech, the report said.
"The internet provider was restrained from providing the organisers with internet services for the conference two hours before the closing and Sharif's speech was supposed to start," the statement said.
It adding that cellular internet services were also cut off two hours before the closing session in the vicinity of the Avari Hotel Lahore, the Dawn news report said.
"The organisers of Asma Jahangir Conference 2021, which include the Supreme Court Bar Association, Pakistan Bar Council, and the AGHS, strongly condemn this act and consider it an onslaught on the freedom of expression."
After the video call was cut off, the organisers arranged for a telephonic address by Sharif, according to their statement.
It quoted Munizae as saying: "We believe in freedom of expression that is why this non-partisan platform is open to everyone and we condemn the muzzling of the closing session where Sharif was going to make an address."
In his wide-ranging speech, Sharif called for immediately devising a national agenda to pull Pakistan out of its current crises and take it on the path of democracy, reiterating the need to "put our house in order".
The former Prime Minister once again hit out at the military establishment and criticised interference in judicial and government affairs that he claimed had led to Pakistan's "downfall".
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