Prime minister’s aide Firdous Ashiq Awan on Wednesday denounced the besieging of Dawn’s office in Islamabad and said that action was taken immediately after the protest came to her notice.
Addressing a press conference in Islamabad, Awan further said that the government “will discourage such acts because they cannot be allowed”.
“It is our responsibility to protect your lives and property. To protect Pakistan’s interests is your (the media’s) responsibility,” she said while answering a question regarding the protest held on Monday.
A few dozen unidentified people had staged a protest outside Dawn offices in the capital over the publication of a news report regarding the Pakistani origins of the London Bridge attacker who stabbed two persons to death last week.
The charged mob, carrying banners and chanting slogans against the newspaper, remained outside the office building for nearly three hours, besieging the premises and making the staffers hostage. Security guards at the media house had to lock the gates to prevent the protesters from entering the premises before police and officers of the capital administration arrived.
During today’s press conference, Awan said: “Sure, hurt my political interests, this liking, disliking [of politicians] is normal. In politics, two different narratives go side by side. But where the state’s interest is concerned, you have to separate politics and the state.
“I am with you (the media), whenever there is injustice,” she assured. “I am your spokesperson as well.”
Awan said that she was the first person to call the media house and had also arranged security for the building.
The premier’s special assistant on information and broadcasting also responded to a press conference by PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif, where he had declared that the “Niazi-NAB nexus had once more been dealt a defeat”. Shehbaz’s press conference came a day after the National Accountability Bureau withdrew a set of appeals challenging bail granted to Shehbaz in the Ashiana case and the Ramzan Sugar Mills case.
Awan, in conversation with reporters today, said: “You have forgotten your properties that were frozen by NAB yesterday. You should also have commented on your cash boys who laundered money for you, the cars in which the nation’s stolen money was stuffed and transferred abroad and how [the money] came back to Pakistan in the form of telegraphic transfers.”
The prime minister’s aide regretted that Shehbaz, in his “hour-long press conference”, did not give any updates on his brother Nawaz Sharif’s health, who travelled to London to get treatment after he was granted bail by the high courts of Lahore and Islamabad on medical grounds.
She also regretted that the opposition had been delaying consensus over the name of the next chief election commissioner.
“The government has been trying to ensure that the Election Commissioner of Pakistan remains functional,” she said.
Awan said that the nation had witnessed the fulfilment of the premier’s promise to being back looted wealth to the country yesterday. She was referring to a settlement between the National Crime Agency (NCA) of the United Kingdom and the family of property tycoon Malik Riaz, for which a statement had been released.
“The prime minister’s promise to bring back looted wealth began to materialise yesterday. The national crime agency’s press release reflects the fact. A recovery of Rs38.5 million has been made from a Pakistani family,” said the premier’s special assistant.
She said that the press release mentions that “the assets will be returned to the state”. “This is not something that the prime minister is saying or some spokesperson. It is the agency stating this.”
Awan said “never before in 72 years had any ruler dared” to do such a thing and that the premier had “made the impossible possible”.
When asked by a reporter whether she was “following orders by the premier given to cabinet members, asking them not to take Malik Riaz’s name”, Awan denied any such directives being issued.
“Whether it is you, me, or Malik Riaz, no one is a holy cow. Every person who has acted against national interests, will be prosecuted as per the law.”