Opposition senators stage walkout from Senate panel meeting

Updated October 23, 2019

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Opposition members in the Senate Standing Committee on Information and Broadcasting walked out of the committee’s meeting on Tuesday in protest against the attitude of its chairman Senator Faisal Javed and threatened to move a no-confidence motion against him. — APP/File
Opposition members in the Senate Standing Committee on Information and Broadcasting walked out of the committee’s meeting on Tuesday in protest against the attitude of its chairman Senator Faisal Javed and threatened to move a no-confidence motion against him. — APP/File

ISLAMABAD: Opposition members in the Senate Standing Committee on Information and Broadcasting walked out of the committee’s meeting on Tuesday in protest against the attitude of its chairman Senator Faisal Javed and threatened to move a no-confidence motion against him.

The meeting discussed issues related to the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra), with the opposition members accusing the regulator of issuing directives to various TV channels against coverage of leaders of opposition parties.

Heated exchanges of arguments were witnessed between senators Pervaiz Rashid, Moula Bux Chandio, Rubina Khalid and Sabir Shah on the one hand and Pemra chairman Saleem Baig on the other, as the opposition senators criticised censorship of political leaders.

Debating the matter, Senator Rashid said that PPP leader Asif Ali Zardari’s interview and PML-N leader Nawaz Sharif’s media talks were suddenly halted. Similarly, he said, news conference of JUI-F leaders was taken off air by TV channels. “Is this media freedom?” he asked.

“I was the minister for information for 126 days when the PTI was staging a sit-in in Islamabad, but I did not stop anybody from covering the PTI leaders and their sit-in,” the PML-N leader said.

Threaten to move no-confidence motion against its chairman

Pemra chairman Baig said that the regulator did not call any media house for censoring any news report. He said that from Oct 1 to 16, TV channels gave around 46 per cent of coverage time to Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl leaders.

During the discussion, the situation took an ugly turn when the committee chairman Faisal Javed responded to questions directed at the Pemra chairman.

Moula Bux Chandio said that Prime Minister Imran Khan called Maulana Fazlur Rehman ‘diesel’ in a live speech and asked if Pemra had issued any show-cause notice to the prime minister over it.

Senator Javed responded that the prime minister just said “this is the first assembly which is running without diesel, tell us where did the prime minister call out the name of the Maulana?”

The remarks of Senator Javed annoyed Senator Chandio who said: “Don’t you know who diesel is? Everyone knows who is called diesel.”

The situation became extremely tense when the committee’s chairman said: “It might be his (the Maulana’s) nickname and maybe he likes it.”

Senator Rubina Khalid asked the Pemra chairman if he would issue a show-cause notice if she lodged a complaint over the issue.

The chairman of the committee tried to intervene and divert the discussion to other topic and pacify opposition members, but they did not listen and staged the walkout.

Published in Dawn, October 23rd, 2019