QUETTA: Representatives of political parties and civil society in Balochistan assailed the government and anti-media forces for what they called usurping the freedom of press and free speech. They termed actions for gagging media in the country authoritarian tactics.

Speaking at a regional convention organised by Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) and Balochistan Union of Journalist (BUJ) on Saturday, they called for a joint and collective movement for safeguarding people’s rights, including the freedom of press and free speech and expression.

Former chief minister of Balochistan and president of the National Party Dr Abdul Malik said in his speech that successive governments of different political parties are not solely responsible for usurping freedom of expression in the country, adding that owners of media houses are equally responsible for it.

Former president of the Supreme Court Bar Association Senator Kamran Murtaza called for a new and comprehensive charter of democracy “to protect people’s rights and constitutional supremacy”.

Other speakers, including Abdul Rahim Ziaratwal of Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party, Abdul Haq of Jamaat-i-Islami, Dr Nashanas of Balochistan National Party-Awami, Maulana Abdul Qadir Luni of Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Nazriyati and Jamal Shah of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz emphasised the need for a new social contract designed to strengthen the federation and for protection of people’s rights.

PFUJ president Shehzada Zulfiqar appealed to all political parties and members of civil society to support the PFUJ’s long march from Quetta to Islamabad.

PFUJ secretary general Nasir Zaidi in his speech paid tribute to the political leadership and civil society of Balochistan, saying that they have always played an important role in the struggle for people’s rights and against dictatorships in the country.

Afzal Butt, former president of PFUJ, sought support for the PFUJ’s long march. “We are fighting for all segments of society,” he said.

Published in Dawn, October 24th, 2021

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