Opposition wants debate in NA on action against Jang Group

By our correspondent

ISLAMABAD: The government could not avoid discussion in the National Assembly on the issue of government's action against the Jang Group, when ANP parliamentary leader Asfandyar Wali raised the issue on the second consecutive day on Tuesday.

However, despite pressure from the opposition and observation by Chaudhry Amir Hussain -- who was presiding over the session, Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Yasin Wattoo did not give categorical assurance that the government would allow debate on the issue. After exhausting the issue on points of order, the opposition moved an adjournment motion on the issue in the National Assembly Secretariat. The adjournment motion was signed by all the opposition members.

Raising the issue on a point of order, Asfandyar Wali said the press as an institution was very important to a democratic society. In fact, it is as important as the three other pillars of the state, he added. He said, "it seems the press is now being made the target."

He said, "it is a serious matter which will have far-reaching repercussions." The government officials, he said, should stop telling newspapers what to print. He demanded that the government's illegal actions must be stopped immediately.

Syed Naveed Qamar, while criticising the government action against the Jang Group, wanted a categorical assurance from the government to have debate in the house on the issue. "Today, the government is taking action against the Jang Group. Tomorrow, the target may be other papers," he added. He said the threats issued by the government functionaries to the Jang Group was a serious matter and also a violation of Article 19 of the Constitution. Referring to the press conference by Senator Saifur Rehman, he said that there was nothing in it to counter the allegations levelled against him in the advertisement.

"The senator has admitted that he had asked the Group not to print anything against the government, which showed that the government wants to curb the freedom of the press," he added. Kanwar Khalid Younas also criticised the government for its policy of gagging the press, saying the government is trying to chain the press, especially for the last four to five months. "What kind of democratic norms are these in which the press freedom is being curtailed," he asked.

Babar Khan Ghauri asked the government to give a categorical assurance that their motion would be taken up for discussion. Chaudhry Amir Hussain, however, observed that the points raised by the members were not in order and advised them to move the issue under rules through call attention notice or adjournment motion - so that it was properly considered by the house.

When Mir Hazar Khan Bijrani pointed out that his call attention notice on the subject was not taken up today, Amir Hussain said that he should consult the treasury benches so that the issue could be taken up in the house through some agreement.

Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Yasin Wattoo said that the government believed in complete freedom of the press and expression, and had never tried to impose any restrictions on it. He referred to the criticism against the government appearing in various newspapers and said no action had been taken against them. He denied that the government had imposed any restrictions on the print media.

The News International Pakistan