Shahbaz intervenes on Jang Group issue

Talks with govt held without preconditions: Mir Shakil

By Raja Zulfikar

ISLAMABAD: After days of mounting protests and public pressure for press freedom, the government finally opened a dialogue with the Jang Group on Saturday without pressing for the conditions it had earlier set.

"The dispute has begun to move towards resolution but let me make it clear that it will be unconditional and the government has not brought forward any demands whatsoever," the Chief Executive of the Jang Group, Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman, announced on Saturday night after a lengthy meeting with a top-level government team.

But he clarified that there were "several complex issues" which needed to be resolved in future meetings. "The talks will continue as there are several issues still pending," Mir Shakil said, adding: "The principle of press freedom remained in the forefront during my talks with the government". The negotiations were arranged at the initiative of Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif.

The government side comprised Mian Shahbaz Sharif, Information Minister Syed Mushahid Hussain, Petroleum Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali and Senator Saifur Rahman. Mir Shakil had already met NA Speaker Illahi Bakhsh Soomro and Law Minister Khalid Anwar.

In his brief address, Mir Shakil gave credit to the official team saying it did not set any pre-conditions for talks, although it could have insisted on its own principles. He lauded the positive role of the NA speaker, the information and the law ministers in particular. "We will have more meetings with them in future," he said.

Mir Shakil received a standing ovation as he came to address the workers who had gathered in the Jang building for hours and eagerly awaited the promised post-negotiation announcement. He joined the workers as they clapped and raised slogans in favour of workers' unity and freedom of the press.

He was all praise for the cooperation of the workers of the Jang Group and journalists' unions and thanked them for their support. "I thought that I would talk to you in detail after the matter is fully resolved and I have come here only to tell you about today's meeting," Mir Shakil said. He promised to take the workers into confidence over further developments.

The News International Pakistan