Sad day for journalists in Lahore

LAHORE – Outright madness was on display on the day of Lahore Press Club elections on Thursday, with rival candidates and their supporters hurling abuse at each other and resorting to physical intimidation. Rangers were called in and polls postponed until December 31.

The unfortunate episode brought humiliation to the entire journalist community, which is supposed to uphold high standards of civility.

As press club members came to cast their vote in the morning, they found a messy situation. The polling process could not be started as the Journalist Group led by former president Arshad Ansari staged a sit-in at the club from Wednesday night to Thursday.

Writers and Workers panels also joined the protest against alleged large-scale fake membership on the day of announcement of schedule for the club elections.

First time in the history of the club, the ruling Progressive Group called in Rangers and police to get into the club after its opponents blocked the entry.

The LPC turned into a battlefield after a verbal scuffle between rival groups, which later engaged in talks to defuse the tense situation.

After successful negotiations, leadership of all four contesting panels announced holding polls on December 31 (Sunday).

The show of insanity by a section of the journalist community made the entire community feel humiliated and hurt.

“I feel embarrassed. I don’t know what these power-hungry people in our ranks should be called. May be they are better suited for politics than journalism,” a practicing journalist observed, when asked to give his views on Thursday’s episode.

Another journalist said he strongly condemned this show of incivility by people who are supposed to be highly civilised. “I wonder how low some people can stoop for their vested interests. Now this makes a perfect sense for many journalists who are pride of the community to keep away from this dirty [election] business,” he went on to say.

Postponement of the polls for a second time is a rare incident in decades-long history of Lahore Press Club.

As per the agreement reached on Thursday, two new members will be included in the election committee on the recommendation of Writers and Workers panels.

And new membership [547 members] will be scrutinised.

Reportedly, the committee consisting of senior members of contesting panels have identified 149 such new members who do not fall in the journalist category. The committee has suggested deleting these new members from the voting list.

Another 106 new members have been found to be lacking requisite five years experience for membership. The committee has suggested giving them associate membership for a specific period before giving right to vote.

Earlier, the election was scheduled for December 24, but was postponed until December 28 due to disagreement among the participating groups on the issue of new membership.

The Progressives-dominated Governing Body contended that it was its right to give new membership. The Journalist Group accused the Progressive Group of giving membership to people who had nothing to do with journalism.

The Election Committee headed by The Nation Editor Salim Bokhari had resigned a few days ago, saying that it could not hold the election until the members list is finalised with consensus of all four contesting groups.

The recently-formed Rahber Committee headed by Jawad Nazir held a series of meetings to resolve the issue of new memberships. After resignation of the committee, the Governing Body constituted a new committee headed by senior journalist Khawar Naeem Hashmi to supervise the election. Other members are Khalid Chaudhry, Usman Bin Ahmed, Javed Farooqi and Saeed Akhtar.

As the Progressives-led Governing Body tried to hold the election without revising the voter list as recommended by the Rahber Committee, Journalist, Writers and Workers panels re-launched their protest, leading to postponement of the election until December 31.


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