Fawad labels Asma Jahangir Conference ‘foreign funded’, receives criticism and praise

SCBA denies allegations levelled against conference, says no law violated in speeches at event

Federal Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry refusing to attend the Asma Jehangir Conference (AJCON) due to former prime minister Nawaz Sharif speaking at the event, and later calling the event ‘foreign funded’, has left the internet divided over the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) lawmaker’s statements.

Chaudhry said on Tuesday, while addressing the media after a federal cabinet meeting, that the AJCON was ‘foreign funded’. Earlier on Sunday, Chaudhry announced that he could not be party to an event that invited an ‘absconder’ to deliver a speech, as he referred to Sharif. He said that he had advised the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) to remain unbiased as its representatives attended AJCON. Chaudhry opined that the speeches by high judicial officials ending with Sharif’s speech, was ‘nothing but a contempt of judges and judiciary’.

The minister’s views received some criticism by notables in Pakistan. Amongst the skeptics was activist Ammar Ali Jan, who said that the ‘regime’ was blaming AJCON and its ‘progressives’ for being ‘foreign funded’. Jan said that this accusation came the same day that Finance Minister Shaukat Tarin entered a deal with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which would burden the people. He said there ‘could not be a more vivid example of hypocrisy and shamelessness’.

Journalist Murtaza Ali Shah said that the formula of labelling everything ‘foreign funded’ was becoming redundant as people would not get behind it anymore.

Another user added to Shah’s views and said that Chaudhry had previously labelled the now unbanned Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) as ‘foreign funded’ as well and so he could not be taken seriously.

Former journalist Maria Amir seemed to agree with Shah as well and said that the government should come up with a better retort. She said that there were people calling AJCON foreign funded by ‘foreign agents’ because apparently human rights narratives like those discussed at the event were ‘always used to target the state’.

While many were against Chaudhry’s remarks about the AJCON, several supported him in not attending the event on the same grounds that Sharif was a guest speaker. A user said that Chaudhry had ‘won hearts’ by standing his ground against Sharif’s presence. Another sang laurels of Chaudhry for not going where a ‘notorious criminal’ would be invited.

Federal Maritime Affairs Minister Ali Haider Zaidi said sarcastically that it was a shame that former political activist Saulat Mirza was hanged, otherwise he too would have been invited to AJCON as a speaker.

With netizens divided, the SCBA has also taken note of Chaudhry’s statement. In a press statement released on Tuesday, the SCBA categorically denied that there was a partisan bent to the AJCON. The association stood by the conference’s agenda and said no law was violated in the speeches made at the event.




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