National Press Club says no prior booking made for axed PTM press conference

Updated 27 Apr 2019

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In this file photo, Ali Wazir and Mohsin Dawar are picutred at the Islamabad Press Club. — Photo courtesy Nilofer Afridi Qazi Twitter
In this file photo, Ali Wazir and Mohsin Dawar are picutred at the Islamabad Press Club. — Photo courtesy Nilofer Afridi Qazi Twitter

The National Press Club (NPC) in Islamabad has said that a Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM) press conference did not receive media coverage on Friday as no prior booking had been made for the news conference in its premises, it emerged on Saturday.

A press release issued by NPC noted that MNAs Mohsin Dawar and Ali Wazir, who belong to the PTM, and former senators Farhatullah Babar and Afrasiab Khattak had issued statements condemning the alleged cancellation of the presser.

It said the press club's president, Shakeel Qarar, had arrived at the venue when the press conference could not be held and "removed any misconceptions" among the PTM representatives and others.

The statement quoted Qarar as saying that "neither any office holder of the National Press Club was behind the [move to] sabotage the PTM press conference, nor was any office holder aware of the whole situation."

According to Qarar, the PTM had not made any booking at the press club reception, which was why an invitation for press coverage hadn't been issued.

The press release added that the NPC president invited those who had arrived for the press conference for tea and after offering them hospitality, "respectfully sent them away from the press club".

Alternatively, independent MNA Dawar on Friday took to Twitter to claim that himself and fellow MNA Wazir, two "elected representatives of Waziristan", were not allowed to hold a press conference at NPC "despite having a booking".

"We know who is behind this, but we also wonder whether they know what they are doing to the unity of this federation?" he added.

In a subsequent tweet, Dawar said that Prime Minister Imran Khan "claims to have championed PTM's demands for the last 15 years" but "today [Friday], in his govt, two MNAs of Waziristan were denied their already reserved slot at Islamabad Press Club."

"The optics of this should be a cause of concern to all the political forces of [Pakistan]," the lawmaker added.

Additionally, PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari on Saturday tweeted that he was "extremely disappointed" that two elected MNAs were allegedly not allowed to hold a press conference at the press club.

"While censorship has reached new heights in 'Naya Pakistan', press clubs have always been sanctuaries of free speech even under the worst dictatorship," the PPP chairman added.

The PTM is a rights-based alliance that, besides calling for the de-mining of the former tribal areas and greater freedom of movement in the latter, has insisted on an end to the practices of extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances and unlawful detentions, and for their practitioners to be held to account within a truth and reconciliation framework.