Stern action against cops, pledges Maqbool: Baton-charge on journalists
LAHORE- Lt-Gen Khalid Maqbool (retired), the Punjab governor, said stern action would be taken against the policemen found to have overstepped the limit in dealing with the journalists in Faisalabad. He said an inquiry had already been ordered into the incident.
Talking to reporters at the Governor’s House here, he said he had not condemned the press as a whole but complained merely against a columnist who had described the public meeting in which the president launched his referendum campaign as less than a middle-grade political rally.
“I did not mean disrespect or to hurt anybody’s feelings,” he told reporters who complained of his behaviour during the rally in Faisalabad and later the thrashing of reporters by the police.
The governor said the police was totally unwarranted and wrong. Police were under instructions, he said, to behave, especially with journalists, students, lawyers, and the ulema. He said it was not known yet why the baton charge had been ordered. The on-going inquiry, he hoped, would help establish that. “Anyhow, the police should have shown more restraint. The government would compensate for the incident and ensure that there is nor recurrence.”
The governor said the attitude of the federal and the Punjab governments towards the press had been friendly. The president, he said, had met journalists more often than any past ruler and the provincial government had allowed them to witness its decision making process and had been issuing no advice.
He said the government viewed criticism by the press objectively. The press, he said, had been supportive of the government since its inception. “Who would want to risk losing the respect and the support?” he asked.
The governor said the press was within its rights in reporting and commenting on the number of people participating in the president’s rallies “provided it is true.” The government, he said, had not ordered anybody to bring people to the rallies.
This event, he said, should not be taken to meant that the government’s attitude toward the press had changed or that it did not respect criticism by journalists.
Replying to a question, he said the opposition was not stopped from holding a public meeting in Multan. A decision on any request for permission to hold a rally, he said, would be taken at the appropriate time. He also said there was absolute political freedom in the country.
Earlier, the governor said president’s campaign rallies had established that the people considered voting for him as the “way to the country’s betterment.” There was, he claimed, massive support for him in the Punjab. He said the rally in Faisalabad was attended by a large number of people.