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PTI MNA Sheheryar Afridi (right) faces off with government officials outside the Press Information Department premises on Thursday. — White Star
PTI MNA Sheheryar Afridi (right) faces off with government officials outside the Press Information Department premises on Thursday. — White Star

ISLAMABAD: Leaders of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) were prevented from holding a press conference on the premises of the government’s Press Information Department (PID) on Thursday.

The government’s refusal led lawmakers to file a police complaint against the information minister, alleging that PID staff illegally prevented them from holding their presser, despite having submitted an application seeking permission to hold the event.

The party had informed the media about its plans a day earlier, so a sizeable press contingent was on hand when party leaders – including PTI spokespersons Naeemul Haq and Fawad Chaudhry and lawmakers Murad Saeed, Sheheryar Afridi and Shibli Faraz – reached PID around 3pm.

But PID staff refused to allow them entry to the premises. When the PTI members grew impatient and aggressive, the staff simply closed the gate. This incensed the PTI team and their parliamentarians announced they would move a privilege motion against PID officials over their behaviour, and decided to file a complaint with the police.

Lawmakers seek FIR against information minister, protest breach of their privilege by PID staff

Talking to reporters outside PID, Mr Haq said that the department was not the property of one political party. He said PTI also had the right to use government departments just as members of the PML-N, since they were funded by taxpayer money.

“PML-N leaders can hold press conferences for hours, but we are not allowed to use the same forum. We are parliamentarians, Senator Faraz is a standing committee chairman, but despite t his we were not allowed to hold a press conference [at PID],” he said.

“We will not only move a privilege motion but will also call a meeting of the Standing Committee on Information to take up the issue. We came here to raise certain questions, but it seems the government was afraid of those questions,” he said.

PTI Spokesperson Fawad Chaudhry said that it was strange that PTI leaders were prevented from holding a press conference by government officials at PID.

“This is not tolerable and appropriate action will be taken at all platforms,” he said.

Following their eviction from PID, the lawmakers headed over to Aabpara police station to register a complaint, seeking the registration of an FIR.

The complainants – Senator Shibli Faraz, MNAs Sheharyar Afridi and Murad Saeed – alleged that PID officials illegally prevented them from conducting a press conference on the directives of State Minister for Information Marriyum Aurangzeb.

When contacted, Mr Afridi said that while police had received their complaint, he was not hopeful of any progress in the matter.

He said the Senate chairman and National Assembly speaker should take action, since legislators were disallowed entry to government premises and officials breached their privilege

An Aabpara police official told Dawn they had received the complaint and had informed their seniors. The fate of the complaint is yet to be decided, as the officers concerned are busy planning for PTI’s gathering in the capital today (Friday).

PTI has actually held a press conference at PID premises before; in April 2016, Naeemul Haq, Sheheryar Afridi and Ayesha Gulalai held a presser there to rebut allegations regarding misuse of funds meant for the Shaukat Khanum cancer hospital.

Later, talking to mediapersons, Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb said that PTI had written to her on Thursday, seeking approval to hold a press conference at PID.

“However, they were informed that space cannot be provided because of some other engagements. Despite this, PTI leaders reached PID; they did it deliberately and wanted to create a scene,” she said.

Published in Dawn, April 28th, 2017