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APR 19, 2005
CPJ condemns attacks on journalists covering Zardari
New York, April 19
—The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) condemned police attacks and acts of obstruction aimed at
journalists covering the opposition Pakistan People's Party's (PPP)
activities on Friday and Saturday. CPJ today called on authorities to
punish those responsible for the abuses.
CPJ is a New York based, independent, nonprofit organization that
works to safeguard press freedom worldwide.
About 50 journalists traveling with Asif Ali Zardari—opposition leader
and husband of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto—on his flight from
Dubai to Lahore Saturday morning were surrounded by police as they
exited the plane and forced to surrender their camera equipment, audio
recorders, and mobile phones, according to local journalists. Those
who resisted were slapped and abused by the police; Mazhar Tufail of
Geo TV was beaten and held in police custody for two hours.
The journalists staged a sit-in at the airport for several hours to
protest the abuse and the confiscation of their gear. When police
finally returned the journalists' equipment, all of their recordings
had been erased and memory cards had been removed, according to
local press accounts. An airport security chief told a reporter from
The Guardian of London that police were acting on orders. Police
warned other journalists that they were given instructions from "the
top" to take the equipment.
In the run-up to Zardari's arrival, thousands of police took to the
streets of Lahore to block rallies by PPP supporters. Communication
towers were also shut down, disrupting cell phone service.
On Friday, police in Karachi attacked PPP activists trying to board a
train to Lahore, wounding several activists and journalists who were
covering the day's events. The Pakistan Press Foundation reported that
three journalists were taken to the hospital for treatment: Malik
Munawar, of the daily Asas Karachi, Tasadduk Ghouri, of Janbaz
Karachi, and Yaseen Jabalpuri of APNA TV. A spokesman for the All
Pakistan Newspapers Society said that police also detained several
journalists and grabbed cameras from photographers at the train
Journalists' groups condemned the rash of attacks, and reporters
covering Pakistan's parliament, the National Assembly, boycotted the
session yesterday in protest.
"These blatant obstructions of the free flow of information inside
Pakistan make a mockery of official claims of press freedom," CPJ
Executive Director Ann Cooper said. "Journalists must be allowed to
cover the news safely and freely without fear of abuse and
confiscation of their equipment."
Despite talk of reconciliation between Pakistan's President General
Pervez Musharraf and leaders of opposition political parties, his
government remains adamant about stamping out political protests in
A similarly aggressive police response occurred in May 2004, when
exiled politician Shahbaz Sharif tried to fly home to Lahore after
three years of exile. Reporters traveling with him were detained by
police in the airport and also had their equipment forcibly
(Source: CPJ website)
Advani offered two temples by
APR 19: Advani
has been asked to chew over this one. The Ram mandir in Ayodhya seems
to be out of his reach at the moment, but Pakistan has offered him two
temples to inaugurate when he finally makes his long-awaited trip
across the border. One, ironically, is a temple dedicated to Ram’s
son, Luv, in Lahore and the other is a prehistoric temple dating to
back to the Mahabharata period in a place called Katasuraj.
invitation to open the temple in Katasuraj, where Yudhishtira and his
brothers are believed to have prayed once upon a time, was issued by
Musharraf himself when the BJP president called on him over the
weekend. The Pakistan President seemed determined to make up for the
harsh words he said about Advani after the Agra Summit collapsed four
years ago. But it’s not just Musharraf and Advani who are excited
about the temple. Natwar Singh too is in a buzz over it. He’s asked
his ministry to send a team to Pakistan to look over the temple and
see what inputs are needed for its restoration.
The Luv temple, or rather its ruins, was unearthed recently in the
Lahore Fort and the Punjab government in Pakistan has decided to
rebuild it. The BJP chief is obviously much in demand for the
president of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League, Shujat Hussain, was
insistent that Advani come to Lahore to inaugurate the new structure.
Wonder what the RSS has to say about all this, considering its chief,
K.S. Sudarshan, has been carping about the Vajpayee government’s
failure to build the Ram mandir at Ayodhya. (Deccan
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18: Lahore might be a 3500 year old city in Pakistan, but for
residents in Toronto it is an inappropriate word that sounds like
`Le Whore', the second word meaning prostitute.
They have objected to a street being named after
Lahore for the same reason.
The name Lahore was proposed by Pakistani-Canadian councilor Khalid
Usman last year for a new street in Markham, a Toronto suburb which
is home to a large number of Pakistani immigrants. “I had
difficulty understanding the complaint. This is a very
multicultural society, especially Markham, especially that area,”
Usman said. “We’re celebrating diversity here. This is a name that
is a 3,500-year-old name of the second-largest city in Pakistan.
It’s a very internationally known city. This isn’t something we
came up with yesterday.”
But one objecting
resident said, "I've grown frustrated by the name Lahore. It
doesn't sound very appropriate to say. People find it humorous.
With all due respect to the Pakistani community, we understand it
to be an inappropriate word."
But Khalid Usman says the petition is uncalled for, arguing, “This
is the process we went through. This is the name we selected. The
proper process was followed. Now, if you want to change the
registered name, a whole other process has to be followed. There
would have to be community meetings and everything.” It is possible
that another street in the area may be named Lahore.
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