A press conference on Friday to call attention to the alleged illegal occupation by PML-N MNA Malik Abrar of 5.3 kanals reserved for a hospital did not go as planned. Most media members at the presser seemed too hungry or disinterested, or borderline bigoted to pay attention to the issue at hand.
Subjected to snide comments and accusations, Joint Christian Action Committee President Akram Waqar Gill’s statement got little notice from those present.
National Press Club member Hasan Iqbal noted, “It is the right and duty of journalists to cross question during such events.” He added, however, that questions should go hand in hand with respect and ethics that he felt were missing from the meeting.
Iqbal commented that it is not up to the media to decide who is guilty or innocent, but rather to provide both parties an equal chance to state their respective cases. He felt that though the platform was made available to the JCAC, their voice was not shown the kind of respect or attention that may be shown to the opposition.
“What is your relationship with the Peoples Party? We all know you get a lot of support from them,” asked a journalist during the press conference.
A somewhat valid question, but the tone was decidedly accusatory and the reporter did not even wait for a response. Preconceived notions and a disturbingly relaxed attitude ran amok, with open heckling prodding the speaker to prematurely end the conference.
Saad Saud, a reporter at the Daily Mail, who actively asked questions from Gill, later told The Express Tribune that often, attitudes of journalists change depending on the position of the speaker. “If [MNA Malik Abrar] was speaking here today, I’m sure nobody would be asking questions in the way we were today,” Saud admitted.
In the face of belittlement, Gill was hopeful that his community’s side of the story will get more notice through this forum. “I don’t care what I have to do to get our voices heard and show the public that we have supporting documents of proof,” commented Gill.
JCAC says that Abrar has encrouached upon land allotted to St Joseph Community Hospital on the IJ Principal Road. The MNA has denied these charges, saying that a “notorious land grabber” named Zaman Cheema, “who also grabbed land of a church in Gordon College”, is jointly involved with the JCAC to frame him.
Abrar has gone on record saying the “JCAC and Cheema wanted to grab a [piece of] land that neither exists nor is in their name” while threatening to file a defamation suit against the JCAC “soon”.
In the presser on Friday, Gill retorted, “The land in Gordon College wasn’t illegally acquired by Cheema but by Malik, and he is trying to do the same again.”
He further noted that there is no political party backing them and that any relationship JCAC has with the PPP is purely due to their support for minorities. He added that the land was given to them through a Canadian funding and organization Sanjh, to build a community hospital open to all needy people.
The JCAC president said that he is willing to reconcile matters with the MNA, but only on live national television.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 29th, 2012.
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