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KARACHI: While most advertisements are given to newspapers having large circulation, the circulation of newspapers and magazines is still determined by a federal government agency even after the devolution of power under the 18th Amendment, the provincial assembly was informed on Tuesday.

Sindh Information Minister Sharjeel Memon expressed these views while responding to questions by lawmakers in the provincial assembly during the question hour pertaining to the information department.

Muttahida Qaumi Movement lawmaker Naila Munir wanted to know the exact number of registered newspapers / magazines in the province. The total number of publications was 3,080, including 457 registered newspapers and 2,623 magazines, said Mr Memon. Of them, he added, 195 were Urdu language newspapers, 161 Sindhi, 98 English and three Gujrati. Similarly, the minister said that out of the 2,623 magazines, 1,247 were Urdu language magazines, 747 Sindhi, 624 English, four Gujrati and one Rajasthani.

Responding to another question of her as to how government advertisements were distributed, the minister said that not all registered newspapers got advertisements from the government instead ads were placed only in those newspapers which were on the information department’s Media List.

The minister, however, could not give details of the number of newspapers / magazines on the Media List. He said information would be provided if a separate question be submitted in this regard. However, he added, the number of newspapers and magazines on the Media List would be much smaller, as many of the registered publications were not being published and sold at stalls on a regular basis.

According to him, only those newspapers which are available at stalls are put on the Media List and given advertisements. He said department staff by visiting newspaper stalls saw which newspapers were available there on a regular basis. He said the number of ads being given to newspapers could vary depending on their circulation.

The minister explained the circulation — number of copies printed — was determined by a federal government agency and around 90 per cent advertisements were given to the newspapers having large circulation while the remaining 10 per cent was given to the newspapers with small circulation.

When Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf legislator Syed Hafeezuddin said that after the 18th amendment, the Sindh government should have devised a mechanism to monitor the circulation, the minister said that various functions were still performed by the federal government, which also had its own information department, despite the 18th amendment.

Responding to a question by MQM lawmaker Heer Soho regarding the number of unions of journalists, he said that their accurate number could not be ascertained as the journalist unions and press clubs were not registered under any act or ordinance. In some cities, he added, there were more than one union or club. He said the government gave regular grants to many of the journalist unions as well as press clubs so that they could perform their duties. Citing some examples, the minister said that the government had given Rs50 million grant to the Karachi Union of Journalists, while apartments were also being constructed for journalists. The Karachi Press Club was given grants every year, he added. The MQM lawmaker asked if paying public funds to the journalist bodies, which were not registered with the government, was not illegal. In reply to her question, the minister said only well-known journalists unions and press clubs were given grants.

Ms Muneer wanted to know about the number of news agencies working in the province. The minister said that 49 news agencies — both local as well as foreign — were working in the province. He, however, clarified that the news agencies were registered with the federal government only and the provincial government had nothing to do with them. He said that the Sindh government had not given any grant to these agencies.

MQM legislator Ayesha Khatoon pointed out that if this question was not related to the provincial government then why the speaker secretariat sent it to the information department in the first place.

While MQM legislator Sumeta Syed sought district-wise details of recruitment and salaries paid to employees between Jan 1, 2008 and Dec 31, 2012, other lawmakers of the MQM including Zubair Khan through supplementary questions specifically asked about salary of two employees in Badin over the past five years.

The minister informed the house that the total amount of salary paid to two government employees in Badin in five years was Rs321,903.

In the written reply, she said, the amount of salary paid to two Badin employees was Rs 321,903 over the five years. A simple calculation indicated that the monthly salary paid by the government to each employee was just Rs2,682 a month — an amount much below the minimum wages fixed by the government, she said.

MQM lawmaker Heer Soho asked as to why the salary was different when the number of employees was same in different districts, the information minister said that the employees were paid salary according to their grades.

Responding to a question by MQM lawmaker Waqar Shah why six people had been recruited in Ghotki district whereas in many other districts fewer employees were recruited, the minister said that employees were recruited/posted according to the sanctioned strength.

PTI legislators Seema Zia and Khurram Sherzaman, MQM lawmaker Irum Farooqui and others also participated in the session.

Speaker Durrani noted that all the six questions taken up in Tuesday’s question hour were asked by women members of the house and asked the male MPAs to also participate in the proceedings. Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz legislator Irfan Marwat said he had asked many questions relating to different departments four to five months back, but none of them had been taken up so far.