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ISLAMABAD: An inquiry report prepared by Islamabad police has held the capital administration responsible for the manhandling of journalists during a rally on Press Freedom Day on Thursday.

The report said “no senior representative of the ICT administration arrived to negotiate with the agitating journalists.”

Assistant Inspector General of Police (operation) Asmatullah Junejo conducted the inquiry on the directives of IGP Dr Sultan Azam Temuri.

The report said around 35 mediapersons led by Shakeel Qarar gathered outside the press club and announced to march towards Parliament House in the Red Zone.

Later, about 50 journalists tried to remove barbed wires and barriers in order to enter the Red Zone forcibly. SP Aamir Khan Niazi along with a police contingent reached there and tried to stop them.

“Despite repeated requests from police, the journalists turned violent and started pushing the police. The police stopped the rally at Express Chowk without using any lethal force.”

Later, the rally crossed Express Chowk and staged a sit-in there. The protesters tried to manhandle the police officials, it added.

An hour later, the deputy commissioner reached the spot and allowed the journalists to proceed towards Parliament House. When they reached outside Parliament House, PPP leader Aitzaz Ahsan joined them.

Mr Ahsan and Mr Qarar later informed the protesters that the chief justice of Pakistan had taken notice of the incident after which they dispersed.

The report said as per the standing operating procedure, a prior NOC was required from the district administration for holding any rally or procession in the Red Zone.

“Police exercised maximum restraint despite continuous provocations and excesses by the participants of the rally,” the report added.

“No representative of civil administration was present to negotiate with the journalists from the press club to Express Chowk. Though the district administration was informed through wireless control, no representative arrived at the press club.”

It concluded: “The undersigned is of the opinion that the minor scuffle between police and journalists at Express Chowk was due to the absence of the representatives of the ICT administration.”

Sources said the situation was deliberately created by some officials of the capital administration and police. Despite repeated requests, the deputy commissioner, assistant commissioner or a magistrate did not reach the spot until the journalists started a sit-in after a scuffle with the police.

An hour later, they added, the DC reached there, removed the barbed wires and accompanied the journalists towards Parliament House.

The sources said the DC should have done it when the police contacted him.

Besides, there was no need for using the police reserve to intercept the mediapersons, they added.

When contacted, former president of the press club Shahryar Khan said the deputy commissioner had been informed about the rally and its destination at the Parliament House where a charter of demands was to be presented to the lawmakers.

In reply, the DC told the journalists to wait for him at D-Chowk from where he would take them to the Parliament House. But SP Aamir Khan Nizai along with police personnel intercepted the journalists when they were moving from China Chowk.

DC retired Capt Mushtaq Ahmed could not be contacted for his comments.

Published in Dawn, May 5th, 2018