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October 24, 2019

Denial of entry to CPJ official to come up before Senate panel

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October 24, 2019

ISLAMABAD: A Senate panel takes up on Oct 25 the deportation/denial of entry in Pakistan to Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) Asia Programme Coordinator Steve Butler. The 14-member Functional Committee, headed by Senator Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) has sought a briefing from the interior secretary and the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) director general on refusal of entry to Butler at the Lahore airport.

On Oct 17, the immigration authorities barred Butler’s entry, saying that his name had been placed on a ‘stop list’.

“Last [Wednesday] night, Pakistani immigration authorities denied entry to CPJ Asia Programme Coordinator Steven Butler, citing a blacklist managed by the Ministry of Interior,” the CPJ statement said.

“A border officer at Allama Iqbal International Airport in Lahore told Butler that his journalist visa was valid, but it was voided because his name was ‘on a stop list of the Interior Ministry,’” it quoted Butler as saying and stated that Butler's passport was “confiscated” by airport authorities and he was forced to board a flight bound for Doha. When he arrived in Doha, authorities there placed him on a flight to Washington, DC, the statement read.

While on the flight, Butler told the CPJ that the flight crew had seized his passport and boarding pass and that he was in a kind of restrictive custody. “Pakistani authorities’ move to block Steven Butler from entering the country is baffling and is a slap in the face to those concerned about press freedom in the country,” the statement quoted CPJ’s executive director Joel Simon as saying. “Pakistani authorities should give a full explanation of their decision to bar Butler from entering and correct this error. If the government is interested in demonstrating its commitment to a free press, it should conduct a swift and transparent investigation into this case.” It said Butler had landed in Lahore to participate in the Asma Jahangir Conference--Roadmap for Human Rights in Pakistan.

The Functional Committee has also asked the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) chairman to satisfy it for his non-appearance in its meeting on Oct 18 despite being in Islamabad and whether the matter of his non-appearance is willful and should be referred to the Senate Privileges committee.

The House body will get a briefing from the Balochistan University vice chancellor on harassment and blackmailing of students of the university staff. The matter has become a major scandal over the past few days.

Meanwhile, the Senate Committee on Planning, Development and reform, meeting on Oct 28, has sought a detailed briefing from the concerned secretary on the progress of construction of infrastructure and allied works for metro bus service Peshawar more New Islamabad airport.

For over a year, the work on the project is at a total standstill, apparently for want of funds and lack of ownership by any official institution. Before that, work was going on at a fast pace and it was estimated that it would be completed in a few months. The material used for setting up metro stations is rusting and decaying. The contractors complain that they can’t carry on work because their bills have not been cleared.

The Senate Committee on China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (SPEC), which will hold a session on Oct 30, will get a detailed briefing on the CPEC Authority along with its Terms of Reference. A day before Prime Minister Imran Khan’s visit to China earlier this month, an ordinance was issued to set up the CPEC authority as Beijing wanted a centralised mechanism to execute the projects under the SPEC umbrella. The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) criticised the move and said the parliament has been bypassed once again.

The committee will also get briefings on marine sciences on how to transform the entire country into a creative eco-friendly and sustainable for future generations and on Gwadar Smart Port City master plan. Another Senate committee on power, meeting on Nov 5, will be presented a report by its sub-panel, headed by Senator Nauman Wazir Khattak, which was assigned review of the issues of high tariff, capacity charges, heat rates and calculation of payback period of Independent Power Projects (IPPs).

The Senate Committee on Overseas Pakistanis and Human Resource Development will hold a session on Nov 1 and will be informed by the concerned secretary on the criteria for issuance of licence of overseas employment promotion, total number of licences, cancellation procedure and cancelled cases with reasons.

It will get an update on tele-conference of ministries of foreign affairs, national health services, regulation and coordination with Saudi authorities regarding rejection of Pakistani postgraduate medical degrees by Saudi Arabia/deportation of Pakistani doctors.

The FIA will give an update on 400 human trafficking cases sent by the Ministry of Overseas Pakistanis.