Phase-wise media crackdown plan flops -Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Paksitan Press Foundtion

Phase-wise media crackdown plan flops

By Rauf Klasra

ISLAMABAD: Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif is said to have taken the handwritten draft of the resolution against the media from the SpeakerÂ’s chamber to his residence for “editing” on Thursday afternoon and returned it after making some required additions with clear instructions to hand over the final draft to MPA Sanaullah Mastikhel on Friday for approval by the Punjab Assembly.

It has now been revealed that the District Coordination Officers (DCOs) were used to make all MPAs of the Punjab Assembly reach Lahore to attend a “special session” of the assembly on Thursday. Even the name of MPA Sanullah Mastikhel, who is now being made the scapegoat by the top guns of the PML-N, was chosen by none other than CM Punjab Shahbaz Sharif to present the resolution in the provincial assembly.

Moreover, two foreign countries were also taken into confidence on the crackdown plan against the media. This inside story was revealed to The News by one of the top insiders of the PML-N, who was an integral part of the plot to target the media. According to him, even harsher measures against the media were in the offing but the move backfired.

After the passage of the resolution, the next plan was to stop official advertisements to the media and to issue all official advertisments only on the Internet in addition to asking the federal government to bring in more stringent laws to tighten the noose around the uncontrolled media through the PEMRA.

In this regard, it is said that the Speaker Punjab Assembly had made a secret telephone call to a top gun of the PPP having close friendship with President Asif Zardari to move similar motions against the media in the Senate, the National Assembly and three other provincial assemblies. The Speaker, according to informed sources, made this call in the presence of Law Minister Rana Sanullah, Deputy Speaker Mashood and some members of the provincial assembly.

The crackdown plan was kept top secret. However, some powerful circles in the media got wind of the strategy to cripple the media. In particular, heavy damage was to be inflcited on one media group.

According to credible information, the plot was finalised on Thursday in the Speaker’s chamber in the presence of 17 MPAs belonging to PPP, PML-N and PML-Q. Sanaullah Mastikhel, being the most experienced parliamentarian, was especially asked to participate in this meeting. Others included Dr Tahir Javed, Shaukat Bhatti, Ali Noor Niazi, Nawabzada Shams Haider, Miss Sameel Kamran, Zulfikar Gondal, Ch Abdul Waheed, Col Shujaa Khanzada, Mohsin Leghari, Ch Zaheeurdin and Rana Sanaullah.

At one point during the meeting, Sanullah Mastikhel appeared not willing to condemn the media for raising the issue of fake degrees since he had been fighting a long legal battle against his political opponents in Bhakkar, MNA Rashid Akbar and others, on the same issue and the case was still pending in the Supreme Court.

As these MPAs were busy giving final touches to the draft resolution, the Speaker was informed that Shahabz Sharif had reached his assembly chamber and had summoned all of them for a word. The CM stopped them from tabling the resolution on Thursday, saying he wanted to make a speech on the water issue so the resolution should be tabled on Friday.

However, he took the handwritten draft to his residence where he made the necessary changes after consulting his close aides and then handed it over to Col Shujaa Khanzada, who subsequently handed it over to Sanaullah Mastikhel to be tabled in the assembly.

The Speaker suspended the rules of business on Friday to allow Sanaullah Mastikhel to table the resolution. In the meanwhile, CM Punjab Shahbaz Sharif also reached the assembly and witnessed the whole drama enacted in the Punjab Assembly.

This correspondent made a call to Sanaullah Khan Mastikhel to get his point of view but he refused to offer any comment. But a top PML-N leader claimed that the party had already made its position clear that it was not its policy and that action would be taken against the mover of the resolution.
Source: The News
Date:7/12/2010