July 29, 2020

By Shaukat Korai


The governing body of the Karachi Press Club (KPC) has fiercely condemned the manner in which the Pakistan Rangers personnel barged into the premises of the KPC.

The historic building of KPC, they said, has been the center of the struggle for democracy, upholding human rights, supporting feminist causes and the students’ movement in Pakistan, therefore no one would tolerate any level of fascist or arbitrary act harming these causes.

The journalist community was outraged when Rangers’ personnel entered the premises of the club as according to the traditions, entry of any official in uniform is prohibited. The governing body of the Press Club has not only demanded an investigation by the DG Rangers but has also asked for serious action against the personnel responsible for violation of the sanctity of the KPC.

While speaking to Voicepk.net, the Vice President of the KPC, Saeed Sarbazi said that Rangers entered the club without notice and termed it reprehensible.

“Rangers had no permission to enter the premises but when they came around 10:30 AM, they told the security guard at the gate that they wanted to see the management,” said Sarbazi. “The management clearly told the Rangers that they were not allowed inside,” added Sabzari.

But Rangers said that they had approached the KPC’s Joint Secretary Saqib Saghir for entry to the club and that he had given them permission. KPC’s General Secretary, Arman Sabir said that law enforcement agencies (LEAs) had contacted and met him a few days ago and informed him about terrorist threats. He was told that important places including the Press Club could be the next target after the recent terrorist attack on the Pakistan Stock Market.

But the General Secretary maintained that no permission had been sought for entry at the Press Club.

“I was told that they want to provide security to the KPC and two personnel came first and got a survey filled while staying outside the premises but there has been no further official communication on the matter since then,” says Sabir.

He also said that not a single LEA personnel has been allowed to enter the press club in uniform as the KPC has been considered a symbol of democracy since the last 60 years.

Arbab Chandio, a senior journalist, said that the ban on entry to the club in uniform was not a sign of hatred of institutions but an expression against dictatorship in the country.

“Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto also wanted to visit the Press Club when he was the martial law administrator in Pakistan but our seniors not only refused then but he was not even allowed to come after he became the elected Prime Minister later,” added Chandio.

According to Chandio, General Zia ul Haq too was not welcomed when he wished to visit KPC since he was in uniform. Later another military dictator General Pervez Musharraf was also refused entry at the Karachi Press Club on basis of his uniform.

When the DG ISPR gave a briefing at KPC in 2004, after which four members of the KPC’s governing body resigned in protest and new elections were held for the club later. Another senior journalist Ejaz Sheikh told Voicepk.net that all journalists have respected and agreed with the tradition of not allowing anyone in uniform to enter. He was one of the members of the governing body who resigned in protest after the briefing by DG ISPR in 2004.

“We are very well aware of the importance of the people in uniform and we were not against them but we want preserve the historical role and stance of journalists hence there will be issues upon unnecessary interventions,” he said.

BBC’s correspondent Riaz Sohail while talking about the effect of the Rangers’ forced entry in the press club on the journalist community, said that that such incidents will end up creating fear among journalists working in small towns and other cities . He also said that journalists from across Pakistan will feel unsafe if we keep allowing this to happen again.

Earlier in November 2018, CTD and LEAs had conducted a search operation at Karachi Press Club at night. A few days later, a member of the KPC and a senior journalist, Nasrullah Chaudhry was arrested and booked under charges of terrorism.

President of the PFUJ, Shehzada Zulfiqar and secretary general Nasir Zaidi have termed the raid an act of terror upon the journalist community.

PFUJ has not only demanded an apology from Sindh rangers over the violation but has also demanded an immediate investigation over the incident through a judicial commission of judges of the Sindh High Court.