Islamabad : The Pakistan government has denied that President Asif Ali Zardari described journalists as “terrorists” but the businessmen he addressed insist the word was used.
Zardari, while addressing a group of businessmen from the North West Frontier Province (NWFP), is reported to have said that “journalists are bigger terrorists than terrorists themselves”.
The government was quick to react, with Information and Broadcasting Minister Sherry Rehman saying the presidency had issued a clarification on the issue.
She added that Zardari held the media “in high esteem and considers it an important institution in the democratic system”.
“President Zardari himself has very friendly and cordial relations with journalists and he can never even think of uttering such words,” Rehman maintained.
This did not cut ice with the members of the NWFP delegation.
“The Frontier businessmen insisted that the president told them at the Jan 15 meeting that the journalists were the ‘biggest terrorists’,” The News reported Tuesday.
It added that one businessman was ready to testify before a court if needed to back this.
The businessmen were part of a 40-member delegation of the Sarhad Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SCCI) that met the president in Islamabad.
The News reported: “Several of (the businessmen) said that Zardari came down hard on Pakistani journalists and termed them terrorists.
“Some of them said the president felt irritated when they raised the question of compensating the people and businessmen for the losses suffered by them due to terrorism and it seems he reacted by blaming the media and journalists for the crisis-like situation prevailing in the country,” The News reported.
Noted columnist Ayaz Amir of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) raised the issue in the National Assembly Monday.
“If there was weakness and incompetence on the part of the government, then why are journalists blamed for pointing out these things before the people,” Amir maintained.