August 28, 2016
ISLAMABAD – Respected senior journalist M. Ziauddin (pictured), who headed a unification committee bidding to unify the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ), threw in the towel Saturday.
After prolonged efforts to bring the rival factions together for the good of the union, Ziauddin said they did their best and gave both parties an honorable way out.
Members of the PFUJ Unification Committee believe that going ahead with the elections would have caused further disintegration and creation of more groups.
They said the committee exhausted every possible effort to bring the rival factions together to keep the body intact and united, but they failed. They attributed their failure to non-cooperation of the factions which led to the decision by the committee members to announce its dissolution and halting of the entire process, including elections.
“When both factions came to me and said we want unification, I agreed,” he said while addressing the PFUJ delegates and others in Peshawar. “We made efforts, continuous efforts and tried to develop consensus.”
The elections of PFUJ could not be held in Peshawar Saturday because of continuing divisions. Instead an ad hoc committee was constituted, tasked to hold elections of unions of journalists and those of PFUJ next year.
Ziauddin said the unification committee was then told by one faction that until all previous mistakes were identified “we could not move further.”
He told the gathering that to address this, an investigation committee was formed. “You can read the report the committee submitted. Both factions were blamed. It points out what mistakes both made. We gave both a way out…an honorable way out.”
Ziauddin said that the settlement agreement, signed by the relevant parties, clearly states that the unification committee’s decisions will be binding. "We did not ban them.
“One faction ran away even before our efforts began. We decided to talk to them…not once but did so again and again. One of the committee members was then told by Afzal Butt that he would contest the elections.”
The investigation committee that probed irregularities in the 2013 PFUJ elections had suggested in its report that PFUJ members who served as office-bearers in recent years should voluntarily step aside and not take part in the next PFUJ elections to avoid polarization in the union.
“Afzal Butt, Khurshid Abbasi, Rana Azeem, Amin Yousaf and Pervez Shaukat have played their innings and it is time they made room for younger colleagues,” the probe committee, headed by senior journalist Rahimullah Yousafzai, suggested in their probe report.
Ziauddin said that following Afzal Butt’s decision to contest the Peshawar elections, a Jirga was held with him. “We tried to explain things to him, but in vain. Later, we said let’s go for consensus, to which he agreed. However, that too did not work out.”
Taking pains to explain his position, Ziauddin said that the unification committee wanted that a non-controversial person be elected the PFUJ president. “We are not against Afzal Butt, we have no personal enmity. I will not get any reward for not letting Butt contest the elections."
He urged Butt to understand their spirit. “We know you have majority; if you had no majority we wouldn’t be talking to you,” he said.
According to the investigation committee’s report, Afzal Butt’s role in the 2013 polls had led to the split in PFUJ.
“Presidential candidate Afzal Butt and his group should have accepted the result declared by the Election Committee to avoid the split in PFUJ,” the probe report said.
“It could have done so under protest and used the options available in the PFUJ constitution to seek justice. As some of its members said they accepted the polling arrangements in good faith, one felt they should also have accepted the election results in good faith in the larger interest of the journalists’ community and for the sake of PFUJ. By forming a separate faction of PFUJ, it triggered the split. It certainly had a point with regard to the transparency of the electoral process, but it neither went into appeal to the tribunal against the result nor sought recounting or re-polling,” the report said.
“The Afzal Butt faction went its separate way and occupied the PFUJ Secretariat in Islamabad to cement the split. Both groups pleaded with the government and non-governmental organizations, including the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), that theirs was the legal and representative PFUJ. This damaged the reputation of Pakistani journalists and of the PFUJ and exposed the divided community to the exploitation by the government, media owners and others with vested interest.”
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Image courtesy: The Express Tribune
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