Van carrying The News, Jang bundles set on fire
Thousands of copies burnt; case registered for bid to torch Geo vehicle; threats, bullets sent to cable operators who resumed Geo transmission; Gilani, Sherpao, Palejo, Sharjeel condemn attack
LAHORE: Some unidentified bike riders set a vehicle carrying bundles of thousands of copies of the daily Jang and The News on fire on Abbot Road on Sunday.
According to the van driver, Nisar, he was on his way to the newspaper market when he was intercepted by four persons riding a car with a blue light near the Simla Pahari but he did not stop. Those aboard the car and forcibly stopped the van near the state TV station, hurled abuses and threats at Nisar, telling him to come out.
Meanwhile, two bike riders sprinkled oil on the vehicle and set it on fire. The driver ran away to save his life. Rescue 1122 vehicles reached the spot and put out the fire. Qila Gujar Singh police have registered a case on the complaint of the Jang Group administration under sections 436/427/171-34/506. The hawkers, meanwhile, could not distribute copies of the newspaper in and outside the city.
Meanwhile, the Qila Gujjar Singh police registered a case against three unidentified miscreants for torturing Geo TV driver Shafqat Ali and trying to torch the DSNG he was driving on Friday.
Shafqat was driving the DSNG (KQ 9184) from Sadr Cantonment to the Geo office. On the Queen Mary College Road, three unidentified miscreants riding a white car (5432) intercepted Shafqat and tortured him. When Shafqat ran away to save his life, the hooligans tried to set the vehicle on fire after sprinkling petrol on it. In the meantime, Muhafiz Force personnel reached the spot. On seeing the police, the miscreants drove away after hurling life threats.
The police have registered a case on the complaint of Geo TV Admin Manager Naveed Afzal. In Sargodha, the cable operators again shut Geo down after receiving threatening letters and, in some cases, bullets. They had resumed the transmission on Pemra orders. The Cable Operators Association Sargodha Division President Shafiq Gujjar told Jang that police had been informed. He demanded security. A cable operator, Tariq Butt, who had received bullets, told Geo News he had demanded Pemra protect them against threats to them and their families.
Cable operators from Toba Tek Singh told Jang that banned outfits had been threatening them to shut down the Geo transmission. The journalist community protested at the Press Club and demanded the government act against the elements pressurising cable operators.
Faizan Bangash adds from Lahore: The nefarious act of torching the newspaper copies drew loud criticism from all sections of society and leaders of all parties. Former Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani and politicians across the divide have condemned the torching of a vehicle carrying copies of Jang and The News by unidentified elements in Lahore on early Sunday. “We never support any kind of violence,” said Yusuf Raza Gilani while talking to The News over the incident that took place at Abbott Road, Lahore.
Gilani, also the central leader of the PPP who remained Speaker of the National Assembly between 1993 and 1996 and served as premier from 2008 to 2012, had a clear stance as far as freedom of the media was concerned. He said former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto always raised her voice for the freedom of the press and her party’s government abolished all draconian laws meant to curb freedom of expression.
He said in the tenure of Pervez Musharraf, when emergency was imposed in the country and restrictions were imposed on the media, it was Benazir who led a long march against the dictatorial rule. He said like his leader, the police also detained him for struggling for the restoration of democracy. He stated that the PPP had always accepted criticism in the media with an open heart and tried to learn from it.
To a question about the suspension of the licence of Geo TV by Pemra, he said he had already stated the PPP believed in freedom of the media and this particular matter was sub judice.
Former chief minister NWFP (now Khyber Pakhtunkhwa) and head of the Qaumi Watan Party Aftab Sherpao also expressed deep concern over the torching of vehicles carrying copies of Jang Group newspapers. He said this was really a matter of shock for the journalists’ community, which was already facing big challenges in the country. He said it was unfortunate that whoever raised the voice for freedom of press he had to face threats to silence his voice.
Ayaz Latif Palejo, renowned nationalist leader from Sindh and head of the Qaumi Awami Tehreek, while commenting on the burning of The News and Jang copies said this was really unfortunate and the elements behind it should be dealt with in accordance with the law. He said it was unfortunate that the trend of taking law into hands and setting up one’s own courts for justice had become very common.
He said this should not be encouraged and people should avoid taking the law into their hands. On the prevailing crisis, Palejo stated that clash among institutions could be detrimental for the federation. He said the media had a very important role to play and on the most occasions, it acted as a shock absorber in our society while exposing the wrongdoings of different elements which otherwise could lead to a highly dangerous situation if they remained unchecked. However, he said the media should also follow a code of ethics.
He further said the media should also show responsibility, adding that the armed forces of the country and ISI are also our own components, and we must avoid doing anything that could benefit anti-Pakistan elements.
When contacted, Sindh Information Minister Sharjeel Memon also voiced concern over the torching of the Jang Group vehicle. He said the PPP always discouraged any mindset which believed in violence.