Daughter of celebrated Pakistani poet Faiz Ahmad Faiz, Moneeza Hashmi, who was supposed to speak at Asia Media Summit in Delhi on May 10, was dropped as a speaker at the last minute.
The 15th Asia Media Summit, held in India for the first time, was hosted by two autonomous bodies of the I&B Ministry. The three-day summit ended on Saturday.
As per the programme of the event available on its website, Hashmi was one of the speakers on the panel to discuss, ‘Should all good stories be commercially successful’. She had been invited in her capacity as creative and media head of Pakistan-based KASHF foundation. However, the final programme shared by I&B Ministry on May 9 did not have Hashmi’s name as a speaker.
According to sources at the ministry, very few people were involved in the decisions regarding the speakers and the change in agenda was made at the last minute. K G Suresh, Director General of Indian Institute of Mass Communication (IIMC), one of the hosts of the event, said he or his institution were not consulted about panelists. He told The Indian Express that Asia Pacific Institute for Broadcasting Development (AIBD) — an inter-governmental body based in Kuala Lampur — and I&B Ministry had decided who the speakers would be.
Sitanshu Kar, Principal Director General of Press Information Bureau, said he was not informed about the speakers. He said he was not consulted about the agenda of the summit and thus was “not aware of any such thing”.
The other autonomous body that co-hosted the summit was Broadcast Engineering Consultants India Limited (BECIL). Chairman and Managing Director of BECIL George Kuruvilla did not respond to messages and calls made to his mobile phone.
Sources said Hashmi had been granted a “six-month, multiple-entry” visa to India in February to attend a conference on Faiz, and did not have permission to attend another conference.
Sources said organisers of the media summit in Delhi were not granted “political clearance” for Pakistan’s nationals. So, while Hashmi could have visited the country, she was barred from attending another conference.
In response to an email, Hashmi confirmed that she had been invited by AIBD. She said that she has participated in 13 of the 15 Asia Media Summits in different countries. She said that though she paid for her own travel, AIBD had offered her to stay at Taj Palace, the venue of the summit.
Hashmi said that she was informed on May 9 evening by AIBD that she could not stay at Taj Palace hotel and “could not register” for the summit and “will not be speaking at my session, I would not be able to participate in the Summit either”. Hashmi said that she was informed by AIBD that “they have informed us just a short while ago about this”. She said AIBD was “tight-lipped” and did not respond about who took the decision.
She said that she was “sorry” about the incident as she “was given no reason as to why this unwelcome treatment was meted out to me” even though she was an invited delegate and a speaker representing “Pakistan and the Pakistani media” and she came on a “valid visa”.
“As a trustee of the Faiz Foundation and as representative of the Faiz family I will continue to work for promotion of peace and humanism and the vision of Faiz sahib. This kind of behaviour and attitude will not promote tolerance or peace in this area of the world. We must continue to talk and respect each other no matter our differences,” said Hashmi.