ISLAMABAD, June 28: Free speech and participatory interaction through independent media will lead to enhancing political participation and social development in Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata).   

The participants of the roundtable held here Thursday, demanded the government to allow local independent TV channels and radio stations to operate in Fata as it would help create an enabling environment for political participation in the region ahead of general elections.

Representatives of political parties and parliamentarians from Fata demanded extension in the jurisdiction of the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) to Fata so that it could start issuing licenses for local radio stations and TV channels in the private sector.

The demand came in the form of a declaration at a roundtable titled: “Can there be political reforms in Fata without media reforms?” held here by Intermedia Pakistan, a national media advocacy, research and training organisation.

The resolution adopted at the end of the roundtable said, “President of Pakistan should immediately issue an ordinance / executive order to extend jurisdiction of Pemra to Fata to allow for a process of allowing legal local media ahead of elections to promote active participation of Fata residents in the political process.”

Earlier, PPP, MNA Akhunzada Chattan said that TV and radio were not about entertainment only, but they were also part of the developing political process in Fata.

“We should have same rights to freedom of expression and right to information for people of Fata if that area has to be brought into mainstream Pakistan,” Mr Chattan said, adding that free local media is one way to end discrimination against residents of the area.

It was informed that currently the local media is restricted to only 3 FM radio stations, all of which are owned by the state.

“For a population of over five million residing in tribal areas this number is irrelevant,” Adnan Rehmat, Executive Director Intermedia said, adding, “Under current laws there cannot be local independent radio stations, TV channels or print media in Fata, which severely hampers exercise of constitutional guarantees of freedom of expression and right to information access there.”

MNAs, senators and political workers from Fata belonging to all the mainstream parties including Pakistan People’s Party, Awami National Party, Pakistan Muslim League-Q and Pakistan Muslim League-N, participated in the roundtable.

The declaration, adopted at the end of the Roundtable, said: “We, the political parties of Pakistan, and elected representatives of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, collectively emphasise that the residents of Fata have the same constitutional and political rights as citizens in the rest of Pakistan.”

The social activists speaking at the occasion stressed that by promoting free speech and strengthening of dialogue between the citizen and state and among the citizens, the political parties will not only lead to enhance political process but also social and economic development of the areas.

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