KARACHI: "Madam, it's so you can stay in touch," explained Baboomal, the assistant accounts officer, while offering me a gift-wrapped mobile phone in a plastic bag. An estimated 30 phones (priced at Rs2,200) were brought in after the District Municipal Corporation of Malir held its press conference to announce its budget for 2014-2015 on Friday at noon.
At the start of the press conference, which was conducted with a buffet at the Arena off Karsaz, journalists were asked to sign up on a sheet. This sheet that filled up with names from Sindhi and Urdu newspapers and television channels was later used to distribute the cell phones to the journalists. After the buffet lunch (prawn tempura included) they crowded around the table where the cell phones were being handed out. If you refused to accept one, you were told, "It's for everyone."
Many journalists ascribe to the principle that you cannot accept a 'gift' if it is valued at more than one day's salary. Others, as Friday's event demonstrated, believe in accepting the gifts before heading out to Friday prayers.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 28th, 2014.
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