Journalists refuse PML-N offer for dialogue
By Amjad Mahmood
LAHORE: The PML-N-led Punjab government did not move on Monday to withdraw the resolution that accused the media of working to undermine the constitutional arrangement in the country and derail democracy as journalists boycotted the house proceedings and refused to join any talks until the document was scrapped from the assembly record.
To the surprise of many, dozens of MPAs of the ruling party showed dissent with their leader Nawaz Sharif’s decision of kicking out their colleague Sanaullah Mastikhel who had tabled the anti-media resolution during Friday session of the house.
“Kadam Barhao Mastikhel hum tumharay sath hein (step forward Mastikhel, we are with you)” and “wazir-e-ala Mastikhel” were the slogans raised by several PML-N MPAs when the man at the centre of controversy entered lobbies of the house.
Reports said some party members had reportedly threatened to resign from the assembly in case of any action against Mastikhel. There was no immediate confirmation of the reports.
The PML-Q, whose members had earlier joined the onslaught against the media and did not oppose the unanimous resolution, boycotted Monday’s proceedings as a face-saving measure when the party was disallowed to move a pro-media resolution.
Led by their parliamentary leader Chaudhry Zaheeruddin, the Q members staged a symbolic protest outside the assembly building to show solidarity with the journalist community and atone for their earlier ‘sin’.
Zaheer alleged the anti-media document had been drafted by law minister Rana Sanaullah on the direction of Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif.
The journalists remained camped outside the assembly building for almost three hours, avoiding even to enter the assembly premises. They chanted slogans like ‘bogus degree holders are unacceptable’, ‘down with bogus degree holders’, ‘down with speaker’ and ‘down with chief minister’.
Their sloganeering would boost up whenever any provincial minister or the MPA who had delivered fiery speech against the media passed by. They also staged a sit-in and burnt copies of the resolution.
Deputy speaker Rana Mashhud Ahmad Khan, law minister Rana Sana and senior minister Raja Riaz came to invite journalists’ leaders for talks and offered drafting of a new unanimous pro-media resolution to the satisfaction of the protesters, but the media people declined the offer demanding unconditional withdrawal of the controversial resolution as the first step for holding ‘meaningful parleys’.
Leaders of PFUJ, PUJ, Lahore Press Club and Press Gallery Committee on the occasion showed their resolve to carry on their protest until the withdrawal of the resolution.