Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb on Friday said that the decision not to air Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi’s “press talk” on Monday ─ which had followed a National Security Committee (NSC) meeting triggered by a statement made by Nawaz Sharif in an interview published in Dawn ─ was hers.
Nawaz, while speaking during the interview on matters related to the country’s foreign policy, had stated: “Militant organisations are active. Call them non-state actors, should we allow them to cross the border and kill 150 people in Mumbai? Explain it to me. Why can’t we complete the trial?”
The remarks — made in reference to the 2008 Mumbai attacks — had drawn controversy after they were played up in Indian media as an ‘admission’ by a thrice-elected prime minister of Pakistan’s complicity in the tragedy.
The NSC meeting, called by PM Abbasi on the ‘suggestion’ of the military’s senior command to address the matter, had deemed “the recent statement in the context of Mumbai attacks, as it appeared in the Daily Dawn of 12th May 2018 […] as incorrect and misleading.”
The NSC statement added: “The participants observed that it was very unfortunate that the opinion arising out of either misconceptions or grievances was being presented in disregard of concrete facts and realities. The participants unanimously rejected the allegations and condemned the fallacious assertions.”
It is pertinent to mention that the statement by the NSC did not name Nawaz while addressing the controversy.
PM Abbasi, in what was believed at the time to be a regular press conference following the NSC meeting, had further said that Nawaz’s remarks were being misrepresented by Indian media, and that people in Pakistan should not become party to the propaganda.
Abbasi’s press conference, however, was not aired on any television channel at the time ─ an unusual move that sparked confusion among media outlets, since it was unclear that the presser had begun until half an hour into the premier’s speech.
The information minister today, in response to a query regarding why electronic media had not broadcast the prime minister’s press conference, explained that it was “never a press conference, but a press talk”.
She also said the “interaction with journalists who were invited to Prime Minister House […] was not to be telecast live”.
She added that “cameras were not allowed inside” the premises.
“It was my decision,” she added.
When asked if she wanted to comment on rumours that the footage of Abbasi’s “press talk” had been deleted from PTV’s archives or stopped from airing, she said that if the reports were true, she would have addressed them.
“The media kept airing these rumours for three days, and I thought, ‘Let it go’,” she said. “If [the media] had asked, I would have given a clarification.”
Curiously, Aurangzeb, who came under fire during a Senate standing committee meeting earlier this week over PTV’s allocation of sizeable airtime to Nawaz Sharif and his daughter Maryam Nawaz, had defended her actions saying: “Nawaz Sharif is a national leader; he has been the prime minister three times. If he and Maryam Nawaz speak for even five hours [at a stretch], we will broadcast it live.”