FIA raids Jang Group offices

By our correspondent

ISLAMABAD: A three-member team from the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) raided the regional offices of Pakistan's largest group of newspapers on Monday afternoon at 3.00 pm. They attempted to take away with them some records but their efforts were thwarted by the protests staged by the workers of the newspapers. Supervised by an Additional Director General Major Arif, the FIA team remained stationed at the offices of the Jang Group for three hours and also took rounds of the premises.

They stated that their purpose was to check newsprint quotas and the store records, and demanded these be shown. They also wished to inspect newsprint with the organisation. The administration informed them that newsprint stores were with banks, and newsprint was only taken out as per requirement. They also said that the FIA should visit during bank working hours the next day, so that records could be shown to them and the stores checked.

The presence of FIA officials caused harassment among the journalists and other staff present at the office. The raiding team also attempted to acquire some records by force, which led to workers staging a protest to prevent this. The raiding team was also asked by administrative officials to contact the respective bank in connection with their demands, but they continued to make their assertions that the records be shown. When the team went to the Accounts Department and started asking different questions, staff members, including Shorish Malik, Rana Tahir, Aziz Mohmand and Jang 'Olympia' Union President Rana Ghulam Qadir and General Secretary Ghulam Abbas Butt reached the spot and strongly objected to the action.

Other staff members of 'The News' and 'Jang' also gathered there and raised slogans against the unlawful and unethical conduct of the raiding team. After this protest the three member team left the premises, and said they had been given orders 'from the top.' They added they were government officers and had to follow orders.

Journalists and workers of the Jang Group later gathered on the Murree Road where union leaders addressed a protest rally. Describing the raid as an attack on the freedom of expression, they urged the government to stop discrimination against the Jang and The News.

They said the government was acting against the interests of thousands of workers of the group, and adopting undemocratic policies. The workers pledged to stand by the Jang administration during this struggle and said that those who wanted to harm the two newspapers would never succeed. They asserted that the campaign was an effort to prevent the newspapers from upholding the freedom of expression and the truth from reaching readers.

They dispersed after chanting slogans against the government's policy of discrimination against 'The News and 'Jang'. Meanwhile, MQM Chief Altaf Hussain has described the raid as part of the state terrorism unleashed by the government. He spoke to the Jang Group's Editor-in-Chief on phone from London and said he was shocked to hear of the raid.

Altaf Hussain urged President Rafiq Tarar to take notice of the attack on the Jang Group and "do not allow Nawaz Sharif to misuse his powers". Senator Khuda-e-Noor of the Jamhoori Watan Party has also condemned the raid and promised to raise the issue in the next session of the Senate.

Syed Kabir Ali Wasti of the PML (Qasim Group) said the raid was "unparalleled in Pakistan's history". "I have no words to condemn it. The raid aimed at suppressing freedom of expression." General Secretary of the Rawalpindi Islamabad Union of Journalists (RIUJ) Faraz Hashmi also condemned the raid and said the RIUJ will soon convene an emergency meeting to review the situation.

Amir Wasim, President of The News Workers Union, and General Secretary Malik Tahir Ahmed said instead of gagging the press, the government should have the courage to learn from its mistakes. They said harassing the press would not help the government hide its blunders.

No raid, claims govt

ISLAMABAD: A government spokesman on Monday said that there was no raid by any government agency on the Jang offices as claimed by the workers of the newspaper. The spokesman in a statement said, "There has been no raid on the Jang offices and no official from any government agency visited the newspaper on Monday."

The News International Pakistan