Social media takes lead amid unspoken ban on Qadri funeral coverage

RAWALPINDI: Amid an unspoken blanket media ban on Mumtaz Qadri, social media has taken the lead in reporting protests as tens of thousands of supporters of the convicted killer gathered for his funeral on Tuesday.

Thousands of policemen were deployed at main junctions and sensitive buildings in Islamabad and the nearby garrison city of Rawalpindi, officials said, including along the route set to be taken by Qadri’s funeral procession.

Supporters cheered and threw flowers at the casket of the bodyguard who turned his gun on late Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer in 2011, Reuters reported. Police blocked off roads to Liaquat Bagh park in Rawalpindi but thousands arrived on foot.

In one video, supporters of Qadri are seen harassing media men in Islamabad. A group of stick-wielding men are seen chasing a cameraman down before snatching his equipment and smashing it. The same crowd is also seen damaging a media van parked in the area, while hurling abuses at media channels.

Twitter trends in Pakistan also showed a grim picture with five out of 10 trends either praising Qadri or protesting against the government’s decision to hang him. With thousands in support of the convicted killer, the government has not taken any direct action to arrest any of the protesters.

To make matters worse, Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid was cornered by Qadri supporters at Karachi airport Monday night. In a video posted on social media, the information minister was seen on the receiving end of vitriol by Qadri’s supporters. The minister had to be escorted by security personnel when one of the supporters threw a shoe at his head.

The government’s vague stance on Qadri-related media coverage has frustrated many on social media, with many believing Pakistan’s media regulatory body (Pemra) has urged media channels to limit coverage of the protests due to public support for the National Action Plan. Courtesy The Express Tribune