Journalists stage walkout in NA, Senate -Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Paksitan Press Foundtion

Journalists stage walkout in NA, Senate

ISLAMABAD – Media persons, covering the proceedings of parliamentary debate on the federal budget, staged walkouts in the press galleries of both the National Assembly and the Senate on June 17 to protest against the unnecessarily overbearing security arrangements at the Parliament House building.

The security staff at the Parliament House had been directed by the agencies, responsible for providing security to President Gen Pervez Musharraf, not to allow mobile phones inside the building.

President Gen Musharraf’s decision to visit in his parliament chamber during the proceedings is causing great difficulties, not only to the newsmen and visitors, but also to parliamentarians.

Even security officials deputed at the Parliament House have started complaining against the strict security measures adopted at the Parliament House for the last two days.

“We have been directed by our bosses not to allow mobile phones inside the building and we have no choice but to obey them”, one of the officials said. They also requested the journalists to “understand their problems.”

As soon as the journalists walked out of the press gallery in the National Assembly, Information Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed came to them and apprised them of the “security threat.”

Later, National Assembly Speaker Chaudhry Amir Hussain told the House that he would hold a meeting with heads of all political parties to sort out the issue of bringing mobile phones inside the assembly building.

Interior Minister Faisal Saleh Hayat said all security measures were being taken on the directives of the speaker. He also asked the parliamentarians to remove darkened windowpanes from their vehicles. “I again request you to remove the dark glasses otherwise we will have to take some action,” the minister warned the parliamentarians.

Federal Minister for Communications Babar Ghauri, Federal Minister for Health Nasir Khan and Senator Shahzad Waseem also came to the press lounge and requested the journalists to end their protest.

The treasury members assured them that the matter would be looked into thoroughly. “Either no one, including members of parliament, will bring mobile phones with them or all will be allowed to carry the phones,” said Senator Shahzad Waseem.

One of the journalists said if there was a serious “security threat” to parliament then the government should prorogue the session. Later, speaking on the floor of the house, PPP Senator Raza Rabbani said there was a contradiction in the two statements, issued by the information minister and the interior minister. He said the information minister had stated that there was serious threat to parliament house while the interior minister had denied this statement.

Mr Rabbani said if there was a threat to the lives of the parliamentarians then why similar security measures had not been taken at the Parliament Lodges where most of the members were residing. He said all these measures had been adopted only to provide security to the person of Gen Musharraf.
Source: Dawn
Date:6/18/2004