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The farmhouse agony!

April 16, 2013

ISLAMABAD, April 15: While covering the launch of the manifesto of the All Pakistan Muslim League (APML), the journalists on Monday had to suffer due to extraordinary and unprecedented security arrangements at the fortress-like farmhouse of former military ruler Gen (retired) Pervez Musharraf.

Already annoyed by the humiliation they had to face at the hands of the security officials, including armed Rangers personnel, deputed inside and outside the house, the reporters and the cameramen protested over the delay in the start of the function.

The guests and the journalists, who were thoroughly body-searched at the main entrance, had been told by the security personnel that they could not carry the mobile phones inside due to the security reasons.

Moreover, no one from the APML or the security personnel were ready to take responsibility of collecting the mobile phones and they kept on asking every one to go and put the phones in their vehicles before entering the house.

So much so that the TV channels were not allowed to do live coverage of the event as their DSNG (Direct Satellite News Gathering) vehicles were not allowed to be parked near the entrance and were kept at a distance.

An off-colour Musharraf wearing the off-white Kurta surrounded by plainclothes guards came to the stage set up at one of the sprawling lawns of the farm house under a tent, but only after the journalists threatened to boycott the function after waiting for him for almost 90 minutes.

The organisers of the event, particularly APML’s Secretary General Dr Amjad and Information Secretary Aasia Ishaque, had to struggle in consoling the agitating reporters and cameramen and they kept on announcing that their party boss was coming in few minutes.

At the end of the programme, the guards physically manhandled a reporter when he tried to rush to the former president in order to seek time for an exclusive interview for his organisation.

A spokesman for Gen Musharraf and former director-general Rashid Qureshi apologised to the reporters and explained the reasons for the high-security arrangements.

This was the first ever formal media interaction of Gen (retd) Musharraf since his arrival in Islamabad some two weeks back.

The journalists even lodged their protest with Mr Musharraf and he said that he would look into it.