Tribal elders' help sought for safe release of journalist, friend: action committee formed -Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Paksitan Press Foundtion

Tribal elders’ help sought for safe release of journalist, friend: action committee formed

PESHAWAR (February 14 2007): The broader Action Committee of Khyber Union of Journalists, Peshawar Press Club, political parties, religious groups, trader bodies and civil society organisations unveiled the protest plans to secure a safe release of senior journalist Sohail Qalandar and his friend Niaz Mohammad.

Making the decisions public at the Press club, the committee announced that a Jirgah (Consultation) of the elders from the tribal area of Khyber Agency had been convened for February 15 at the Press club to seek their help on the issue.

A protest demonstration would be staged in front of the Governor’s House, Peshawar on February 19, in which political and religious groups’ activists, civil society members, traders, labour leaders and clerks would participate. The other protest demonstration would be held outside the Parliament House on February 22 to sensitise the central government regarding the concerns of journalists.

Earlier, chairing the meeting, KhUJ-PPC Action Committee Chairman Shamim Shahid updated the participants on the situation arising out of the non-recovery of Sohail and Niaz, who had been in the captivity of kidnappers for the last 42 days. Action Committee Secretary Syed Ansar Abbas, KhUJ President Jan Afzal, Senior Vice-President Sameen Jan, PPC Acting President Tariq Afaaq attended the meeting from the newspersons side.

The meeting flayed Governor Ali Mohammad Jan Orakzai and Chief Minister Akram Khan Durrani for their lack of interest to ensure the safe release of kidnapped persons. The participants demanded a change of political administration in Khyber Agency to improve the situation. Through another resolution the meeting asked the government to place a ban on the public transport between Khyber Agency and Peshawar.

Meanwhile, the hunger strike by newspersons continued on seventh consecutive day on February 12, 2007. Jehangir Shehzad (Daily Express), Faridullah Khan (Ausaf), Ghaniur Rehman (Azkaar), Nisar Mohammad Khan (Subah) and Saboor Khattak (Mashriq) observed the hunger strike to press for an early and safe recovery of their journalist colleague and his friend.

Those who visited the hunger strike camp set up on the Peshawar Press Club premises despite heavy rains include Malik Zaffar Azam (NWFP Law Minister), Fazl-e-Rabbani (Food Minister), Himayatullah Mayar (Mardan District Nazim), Ihsanullah Bacha (Mardan Tehsil Nazim), Khurshid Anwer Jawadi (Imamia Ulema Council) and Mohammad Ziauddin (Gandhara Hindko Board). Fazle Rabbani prayed for the early release of the kidnapped persons at the end of the hunger strike camp.

The journalists, traders, social welfare workers, local government representatives, father of Sohail Qalandar staged a demonstration in front of the Governor’s House in Peshawar on February 12 to demand a safe recovery of the kidnapped persons. Led by Action Committee Chairman Shamim Shahid and KhUJ President Jan Afzal, PPC Acting President Tariq Afaaq, the protesters marched to the Governor’s House, crossing over the blockades.

They asked the government to seal the business concerns of the tribal people in the settled areas to force the kidnappers to release Sohail and Niaz.

The journalists of Rawalpindi and Islamabad staged a protest in the Federal Capital on February 12, 2007 by holding a rally outside the Parliament House to demand a safe release of Sohail and Niaz. Rawalpindi and Islamabad Union of Journalists President Afzal Butt led the protest.

In Karachi, Council of Pakistan Newspaper Editors (CPNE), a representative body of the newspaper editors, condemned the kidnapping and the delay in the recovery of their fellow editor in Peshawar. In a joint statement issued by the CPNE President, Syed Faseeh Iqbal, and Secretary General Wamiq Zubairi, the CPNE asked NWFP governor to make “serious and real” efforts to secure the safe release of the kidnapped journalist.

It may be mentioned here that the 38-year-old city newsperson and his friend were kidnapped from Hayatabad on the night of January 02, 2007. The vehicle they were travelling in (AKD 325) was found abandoned in the jurisdiction of the Tatara Police Station in Hayatabad.

Source: Business Recorder