Release of newsprint delayed despite SC orders
Custom officials violate apex court's directives; delay infuriates Jang Group employees
By our correspondent


KARACHI: Despite the order of the Supreme Court to release the newsprint of Jang Group of Newspapers, the Customs authorities at Karachi Port Trust (KPT) delayed the release of trucks loaded with the reels of paper.

Workers of Jang Group, including office-bearers of dailies Jang, The News and the Javed Press employees unions, reached the KPT, West Wharf Gate, on Thursday morning. However, the authorities of various departments continued to decline the release of the trucks on one pretext or the other, following the directives from Islamabad.

The editorial staff and workers got enraged by the uncertain situation, but senior staff members asked them to keep patience. However, the workers could not control their emotions and started chanting slogans against the delaying tactics being used the authorities. After hectic talks between the office-bearers of the Jang Group unions and the KPT Labour Union, the authorities allowed to bring the trucks loaded with newsprint out of the gate of East Wharf -- the dues of which including Customs duties and bills of entry had been cleared five days ago.

The Supreme Court, while hearing contempt of court plea on Wednesday, had ordered release of 200 reels of newsprint immediately. However, when the representative of Jang Group administration along with the workers reached East Wharf at about 9:00 am, they came to know that telephone calls of senior FIA officials from Islamabad were being received. Interestingly, the whole process regarding the release of paper, which could be completed within one-and-a-half hour, could not be completed even till 5:00 pm. It was being felt that the Jang Group would be denied paper on the day.

In line with the Supreme Court decision, the custom agent of Jang Group after depositing the required octroi for 200 reels of paper had got the bill of entry signed by the traffic manager KPT. However, when the Jang staffers reached the office of the deputy traffic manager with three photocopies of the bill, they were asked to bring one more photocopy. When the staffers again came with a total of four photocopies, the official was not on his seat.

After making hectic efforts, the official was contacted at West Wharf. The Jang staff got another delivery order from him after furnishing the required number of photocopies of the bill. After this, the assistant traffic manager stopped the delivery on the pretext that demurrage had to be paid. However, the Jang staff insisted that as an undertaking had been given, there did not arise any reason for stopping the delivery.

When the trucks loaded with newsprint reached the KPT Gate, some personnel belonging to the FIA and another government agency stopped the trucks. The extraordinary delay further infuriated the Jang Group employees, who were waiting in a large number outside the KPT Gate. They chanted slogans in favour of the press freedom.

In the meantime, the personnel of government agencies baton charged the Jang Group employees. As the situation worsened, the Jang Group union leaders contacted KPT CBA General Secretary Syed Jalil Shah. After hectic negotiations, the situation was brought under control and the trailer was released. Later, the Jang Group employees along with journalists of other publications and international news agencies went along with the reels to the Javed Printing Press.

FIA, police raid press, impound newsprint

By our correspondent

KARACHI: Despite clear and categorical orders of the Supreme Court, the FIA officials on Thursday intercepted and took away a trailer loaded with 8 reels of newsprint with them. The District West Police also took part in the operation. Later, a large number of Jang Group employees reached the Javed Press to foil the FIA's action.

When asked about the reason for taking away the newsprint trailer, DSP KPT Rao Iqbal said, "he was informed that armed employees of the Jang Group had insulted the police officials and, therefore, the police impounded the trailer." However, he failed to substantiate his claim. In the meantime, SDM Dr Jamali reached the spot and on his intervention the impounded newsprint truck was released.

February 07, 1999
The News International Pakistan