KARACHI, Jan 17: In an unexpected move, the Arts Council of Pakistan has withdrawn permission given to civil society organisations for holding a memorial reference for the slain governor of Punjab, allegedly under pressure from right-wing forces, event organisers said on Monday.

The memorial reference by civil society organisations, rights groups and professional bodies united under the banner of the Citizens for Democracy was originally scheduled to be held on Tuesday.

But the last-minute “withdrawal” of permission by the Arts Council has put the memorial reference in jeopardy, as the organisers said they were desperately looking for alternative arrangements to hold the reference for the assassinated Punjab Governor Salman Taseer.

Openly critical of the misuse of the blasphemy law, Mr Taseer was shot dead by a member of his own security detail outside an Islamabad cafe on Jan 4.

His assassination, which was decried by civil society organisations and political parties including the ruling Pakistan People’s Party, was hailed by religious organisations across the country. The organisers blamed the sudden shift in the attitude of the Arts Council management on intense pressure exerted by what they described as right-wing forces.

However, the newly-elected president of the Arts Council, Ahmad Shah, said that the programme had been postponed due to “the prevailing environment of the city”.

He did not say if the permission had been withdrawn.

The organisers said that they had requested the Karachi Press Club to facilitate the holding of the memorial reference by providing their premises as an alternative venue.

KPC President Tahir Hasan Khan told Dawn that some non-governmental organisations had applied for permission to hold a reference for the slain governor.

He said: “Only the governing body of the press club is authorised to take such decisions.”—Our Reporter

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