LAHORE: The Punjab government has always respected the freedom of the press and will continue to do so in the future, Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif said on Tuesday. He was addressing the oath taking ceremony of the executive committee of the Lahore Press Club.
Shahbaz said that the resolution moved by Sanaullah Mastikhel and unanimously adopted by the Provincial Assembly did not contain anything against the freedom of the press. He added that it was speeches by some MPAs during the debate on the resolution that led to the misunderstanding. He said that some MPAs had been irked by certain media reports but he had settled the issue as soon as it came to his knowledge.
Addressing Sarmad Bashir, the LPC president, the chief minister said that he had pointed out the controversial PA resolution on media but had forgotten to mention the government’s decision to waive Rs100,000 on every plot of land allotted to the Lahore Press Club members last year. “Sarmad Sahab, you have mentioned the PA resolution but have forgotten the favour I extended to the journalists’ community last year,” the CM said.
Shahbaz alleged that the previous government had been supporting the land mafia and patronising illegal occupations of people’s properties. He said he had been working towards purging the society of such elements. He assured the journalists in the audience that he would rid their housing society of land grabbers, however influential they may appear to be.
During the 10 minutes speech, the CM recounted several incidents from his career to highlight his commitment to serving the people. He held that he felt a lot for the poor, “An old lady once approached me and complained that her husband had forcibly occupied her land. I made sure that the land was back in her custody within three days,” the CM recalled. He said that he had never taken out a penny from the public exchequer for his medical expenditures. On going abroad for treatment, Shahbaz said that the doctors had been examining him and had his entire medical history so he had to consult them. But, he said that he always paid for his trips and treatment from his own pocket.
He promised the small audience that the new council members of the Club too would be awarded plots by the government. He did not, however, immediately announce any financial assistance or grant of land for the purpose and instead proposed that the LPC executive committee constitute a committee to discuss the issue in detail. The CM complimented Sarmad Bashir for his speech. He said he admired him for being so articulate in Urdu language.Speaking earlier, Sarmad Bashir, the LPC president, expressed dissatisfaction with the government’s reluctance to award plots to the new members. He requested the CM to prioritise the matter.
Shahbaz Sharif also administered oath to the LPC executive committee including Sarmad Bashir, the LPC president, Amir Waqas, the vice president and Zia Ullah Niazi the general secretary.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 28th, 2010.