HYDERABAD: Leaders of Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) on Sunday hinted at launching “court arrest” movement in Sindh if murderers of slain journalist, Jan Mohammad Mahar were not brought to justice.
They criticised the Sindh government for its failure in laying hands on the culprits on the ground that they were hiding in the katcha area which remained inaccessible for the law enforcers.
They were speaking at a Sindh Journalists Convention organised by the Hyderabad Union of Journalists here at the local press club, presided over by PFUJ (Afzal Butt group) president Rashid Ansari.
Mr Ansari said that if the government did not arrest the culprits, journalists could launch a court arrest movement across Sindh and then on Pakistan level. He said the PFUJ would take such a decision in its federal executive council (FEC) meeting scheduled for February in Gujranwala.
He said that after Mexico, Pakistan had become the most dangerous country for journalists with the result that 148 of them had been killed. If the newsmen failed to get culprits arrested, more journalists would be murdered and if the murderers were brought to justice no journalist would be killed.
He said it was the government’s strategy how to nab culprits regardless of the fact that the outlaws were using human shields to protect themselves, adding that it was not journalist’s concern that the katcha area was inaccessible for police. He warned that politicians must remember that they had to return to the elected houses after polls and they could face a siege by the journalists if Mahar’s assassins were not arrested.
Sindh Action Committee convener Mazhar Abbas said elections became meaningless there where poets, journalists and politicians were murdered. He termed it a problem of the murder of conscience in society. Democracy and journalism were inseparable and one could not imagine that the journalists were gagged while elections were held.
He hinted at launching the court arrest movement in Sindh if the murderers were not arrested and the newsmen would volunteer their names for that movement and they would present themselves for the court arrest in front of the Chief Minister House once the FEC approved it.
He announced a Sindh-wide protest on Dec 19 followed by a hunger strike on Dec 23 and a convention in Sukkur on Jan 6. He said Pakistan was part of the war on terror, even then the Sindh government was unable to arrest the culprits, which showed its failure.
PFUJ finance secretary Lala Asad said had journalists not been silent in the past, 148 newsmen would not have been murdered. Everyone was on board to gag the media and punish those who showed dissent or did not toe the line of the powers that be, and added that even the judiciary remained silent surprisingly. The murderers were openly uploading videos from the katcha area, he added.
He said ‘some people’ did not want the culprits to be arrested, in order to discourage the journalists. “But we are not tired,” he said and called for an effective and practical operation in the katcha area of Sindh. Police should set up camps there, he said.
Senior journalist Ali Hassan said the demand for protection meant journalists were demanding it for everyone. He said the protection was something that could not be bought while everything was purchasable. He wondered what was the purpose of the government and said the powerful quarters didn’t realise that when the masses rose, they did away with everything. He alleged that the authorities didn’t want to arrest the murderers.
Karachi Union of Journalists (KUJ) ad-hoc committee chairman Imtiaz Faran said the movement threw an opportunity for journalists to train and organise themselves. He said the government should delay the arrest so that the PFUJ was able to organise more and more journalists. He said those patronising the culprits had been exposed.
PFUJ leader and Hyderabad Press Club president Lala Rehman Samoo said Sindh Caretaker Chief Minister Maqbool Baqar was widely respected, but he was unable to ensure arrest of the culprits. He said that if he could not take action, he should quit.
He said the IGP was taking his posting in Sindh as honeymoon while the province was burning. “Baqar should ask the IGP to encamp in Sukkur’s katcha area and should not return to Karachi unless the culprits were arrested,” said Lala.
Jai Parkash, Iqbal Mallah, Khursheed Abbasi, Khalid Khokhar, HRCP representative Imdad Chandio and others also spoke.
Published in Dawn, December 11th, 2023