A TV show host and his associate were arrested from the Sindh Assembly hall on Friday when they caused a security scare by carrying a loaded pistol while the session was in progress and the chief minister too was present in the House.
Iqrar-ul-Hassan, who is associated with a private TV news channel, entered the assembly hall along with his associate carrying the weapon — a move which the TV channel described as a “sting operation” to expose lapses in security arrangements on the assembly premises.
The TV show host caused an alarm in the House when he managed to slip into the house from the guests’ gallery while crossing through an electric gate system that has a metallic bar controlling the entry and exit of people into the House.
The dramatic episode started when Hassan, after entering the House, reached almost the front row seats where Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Nisar Ahmed Khuhro and Environment Minister Dr Sikandar Mandhro were seated.
Speaker Agha Siraj Khan Durrani spotted the presence of a stranger inside the House and told him to identity himself. The assembly staff told Hassan to return to the guests’ gallery where he was earlier seated.
It was then that the Muttahida Qaumi Movement’s Khawaja Izhar-ul-Hassan, Leader of Opposition, shed light on the issue. The opposition leader told the speaker that the person who had managed to sneak inside the House was a TV show host famous for exposing corruption and the authorities’ failures.
Hassan said the TV host had informed him that a person was present in the House along with a weapon. The speaker said if that was the case, then the security of the assembly should be held accountable while the TV host should be asked about the person carrying a weapon. He said it was inappropriate to sneak into the House in this manner.
Khuhro said all members were ready to go through a thorough security search. He said it was an alarming issue and as a journalist Hassan should know that his action was illegal. The opposition leader said the security arrangements for the assembly were so poor that several persons in civvies were roaming freely on the premises carrying weapons.
The climax of the drama reached its peak when on being asked by the TV host, a person sitting next to him in the guests’ gallery took out a pistol tucked in his shalwar. The pistol was handed over to an assembly employee who passed it on to the assembly secretary and finally to the speaker.
The speaker carefully examined the pistol and immediately unloaded its chamber. While these dramatic events were under way inside the House, the opposition lawmakers shouted slogans of “shame, shame” against the security lapse. The opposition leader said it was a highly alarming issue that a person had managed to bring a weapon with him in the house so easily when so much money was being spent on the assembly’s security. He noted that the lawmakers had already received threats from the banned organisations.
The speaker asked Home Minister Sohail Anwar Siyal to conduct an inquiry into the incident. The home minister said an inquiry would be conducted but first the people who had committed the offence (of brining a weapon inside the assembly) would be arrested. He requested the speaker to direct the assembly’s security staff to arrest the TV host and his associate until police reached the assembly.
Siyal also asked the speaker to allow the police to enter the assembly hall to arrest the TV host and his associate. The opposition leader again intervened into the matter by asking as to who would arrest the two men when there were no security personnel inside the assembly.
The speaker said no police official in uniform would be allowed to enter the assembly premises as only Special Branch cops in civvies could come inside to arrest the two men. Later, the Special Branch personnel in civvies came inside the assembly hall and whisked away Iqrar-ul-Hassan and his associate.
The home minister said a report on the incident would be presented before the House and due action taken if media personnel or police were found facilitating the TV show host and his associate.
The TV host and his associate were taken to Arambagh Police Station. Till the filing of this report, the two men were still at the police station and a case was yet to be lodged. The home minister asked DIG South Munir Ahmed Sheikh to conduct a probe into the incident. The Sindh Assembly speaker announced that all passes issued to visitors, except those for media personnel, would be revoked from Monday.
He added that the security employees who were found responsible for this lapse would be sacked. In a statement, Khuhro said a person had used the garb of journalism to carry out an inappropriate act. He added that the TV show host’s action had rendered all journalists suspicious in the eyes of security personnel.
Reacting to the incident, Sindh Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah said the entry of an armed person into the assembly hall breaking the security cordon was a sad incident and action would be taken against the person on the recommendations of the speaker.
Adviser to the chief minister Maula Bukhsh Chandio said some friends benefiting from relaxation on account of security check staged the drama and the provincial government was investigating in this regard.
Journalists covering the assembly proceedings condemned Hassan’s action of taking his armed associate to the assembly hall. After the conclusion of the assembly proceedings they raised slogans of ‘Zard Sahafat Murdabad’ (Down with yellow journalism).
Speaking on the occasion, senior journalist Arbab Chandio, Shahid Ghazali, Bachal Leghari, Shahid Jatoi and others said the whole drama was staged just to make a news story which was a condemnable act.
They said the anchorperson’s story about security lapses on the assembly premises had just blown up in his face when the security personnel manning the assembly’s main gate stopped his associate and he took him in on his personal assurance.
They said Hassan took wrong benefit of security relaxation for journalists, as the assembly’s security staff trusted the parliamentary journalists. They said the anchors’ stunt had actually breached trust in journalists and given an idea to terrorists to use journalists for their purpose.