Stockholm. Its July 5. The elite (read elitist)
School of Economics at Sveavägen 65 is encircled by gun-totting
police. Riot police on horse-back are also there. The sinister
noise of the helicopter constantly hovering over.makes the
atmosphere even malign. No vehicles are allowed to ply Sveavägen,
one of the most busy roads during daytime. Only police jeeps
and cars are running back and forth. Stunned, perplexed Stockholmites
cannot understand what in fact is going on. here
It was here at Sveavägen, a road bisecting
heart of the town, Olof Palme was murdered on a cold December
evening back in 1986. Not so long from this School of Economics.
Now he lays buried close to this scene.
But today its not some high profile murder
that has induced this hyper police movement. It actually is
concerned with a 'murderer'. This is what the demonstrators
chanting close by call him: 'Musharraf mördare. Persson
Hycklare' (Musharraf is murderer. Persson is hypocrite).
But the police are not here to arrest the
'mordare' It actually is there to protect him. Because he
is a state guest.
The military dictator from Pakistan has been
invited by the 'hycklare' to visit the House of Social Democracy.
Earlier he had lunch with social democratic Swedish prime
minister, Göran Persson. At 1430, he addressed a press
I wanted to attend this press conference.
I contacted Gunilla Rohlen, the press secretary at Statsrådsberedningen
(Prime Minister's secretariat). The Statsrådsberedningen
had in advance circulated on their website a message for the
journalists: 'Media wishing to attend the press briefing must
apply by 12.00 on Friday 2 July at the latest.' I applied
a day ahead of deadline. I also gave Ms Gunilla a ring. She
enlightened me as to the procedure of enrolling myself for
this press conference. I punctually followed her instructions.
Until Monday morning i.e July 5, I was not intimated if I
could attend this press conference or not. I rang Gunilla
on Monday morning myself.
There was no surprise waiting for me. I knew
the answer. I was refused. I knew it from the beginning but
wanted to know the excuse Media Brahmins would make to stop
me from going to this holy press conference.
Guess what? ' I could not open your mail',
said Gunilla. 'How come. It was not in file form', I asked.
She had no answer. 'For some strange reason it could not be
opened', she said.
I was rather advised to contact Acting Press
Secretary Anna Helsen on her mobile. Anna was responsible
for this press conference. Anna had a strange problem with
me. I was not a accredited Swedish journalist, she told Marco
Espvall, editor Internationalen. I write for Internationalen,
a Stockholm-based weekly. 'Well, can I send someone else in
place of Farooq', asked Marco. No, that was not possible either
for Anna as it was a press conference 'with high security'
and time for registration had passed .
Only carefully chosen stenographers from mainstream
newspapers posing as journalists were considered fit for copying
notes at this 'high security risk' press conference. These
stenographers were more concerned about Göran Persson's
health. He recently had an operation. There was no upholder
of the 'objectivity' (a cliché Swedish media cherish
a lot) who dared ask Göran: How come a military dictator
is on an official visit in our democratic country?
Nobody dared ask Musharraf an explanation
of his crimes. List of his crimes is long. But asking at least
about the killings of one dozen peasants at Okara Military
Farms could not have been in contradiction with 'objectivity'.
I had hardly finished talking with Anna on
phone when Naeem, a friend of mine rang and informed: 'Police
have not allowed us demonstrate outside the School of Economics'.
Police had a strange excuse. We did not seek
permission five days in advance. I had a big laugh when Naeem
told me this. Actually we both had a good laugh. Even the
Swedish Utrikesdepartmentet (foreign office) 'did not know',
'five days in advance' if Musharraf was coming. My friend
Jatoi had found out somehow about the proposed visit by end-June.
Also, section of the Swedish press had hinted at the proposed
visit saying Musharraf was coming to buy 40 Jas fighter planes.
Small but concerned Pakistani community in
Stockholm was agitated on this news. Every single Pakistani
I met in last two weeks has been ringing both Utrikesdepartmentet
and Pakistan embassy in Stockholm 'five days in advance' to
find out if the news was correct. None was confirming it.
They did not know 'five days in advance' either about the
visit or the deal.
'We should protest come what may. Maximum
we will be arrested. We cannot stay quiet on the crimes a
dictator is committing in our names', I told Naeem. He readily
By 3 o'clock we had gathered outside the School of Economics
cardond off by smartly dressed Swedish police. In half an
hour over 50 Pakistanis, men and women, had gathered. Few
Swedish ever present left activists had also joined. We informed
this small but charged gathering about the police decision.
Nobody was ready to budge. Police on realising our determination
made a compromise. We were asked to leave the spot and hold
the demo 100 meters away from the venue. We agreed. It was
a charged demo.
'No-Musharraf-No, Go-Musharraf-Go' chants
could be heard all across.
Paparazzi littering the venue were focusing
and flashing on anything possible----from horse shit to masked
commandos----but the demonstrators. We did not exist. Objectivity
At the time of filing this report on July
6, Musharraf is addressing a gathering of the 'Pakistanis'.
at the five star Grand Hotel. Me and my friends wanted to
listen him. We contacted Pakistan embassy. Many times. First
we were told the invitations had not yet been sent. Next day,
all of a sudden all invitations had been sent and we were
late. My request for an interview with Musharraf for Internationalen
as well as for my upcoming book on Pakistan was also declined
by Pakistan embassy I was told he was too busy to spare time
for an interview. with me He must be. It takes time to agree
upon kickbacks. I am not privileged enough to have acess to
official files. This is a privilege journalists from so-called
mainstream newspapers afford. I therefore cannot find out
how much Ericsson has offered for its radars it is selling
to Musharraf. Hope some stenographer comes across this 'exclusive'
By the way, on protest launched by Olof Palme
Centre on stopping me from attending the press conference,
Statsrådsberedningen has begged pardon.
Before going to the demo, I had informed my
Swedish friends in trade unions and political parties how
I was stopped from going to the press conference. My friend
Jan Hoddan at Olof Palme International Centre strongly protested
to the Statsrodsberedningen. Some Statsrådsberedningen
official rang Marco and begged pardon. But this time the problem
was not with opening of email.
' It was deleted by mistake', Marco was told.
I think Marco knows the deleted emails do
not immediately disappear. They go to a folder.
Perhaps Gunilla does not know that.