ISLAMABAD: The Prime Minister’s Office has devised a new formula for the selection of press officers to be posted at foreign missions, reserving a 20 per cent quota for private individuals.

Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf Member of the National Assembly (MNA) Shehryar Afridi said it seemed the government was pursuing a personal agenda to use the quota to bribe journalists.

According to a letter dated July 9, 2014 (a copy of which is available with Dawn), the Ministry of Information has been informed that the prime minister had noted with concern the violations of rules in official appointments.

Officers of the Press Information Group (PIG) are appointed to foreign missions to deal with the media in those respective countries and try to build a positive image of Pakistan.

They are appointed for three years, after which they return to Pakistan and work under the Ministry of Information.The ministry had been informed that 20 per cent of the positions in foreign missions would be reserved for persons outside the information group cadre who have had experience in the media.

Talking to Dawn, MNA Afridi said there should be a right person for the right job. Officers of the PIG are trained and hired for the job so they are the ‘right’ people.

By allocating a quota for private individuals, the PML-N government wants to send its blue-eyed journalists to foreign missions, he added.

An official of the Press Information Group said it would be the first time that private individuals would be allowed to work in foreign missions.

“We do not mind if the competitive process is made stricter for the selection of the officers from the PIG. But it is unfair to send private individuals to foreign missions,” he said.

Officers of the information group are trained to deal with the issues and they only get financial benefits when they are posted abroad. But 20 per cent of the posts in foreign missions are now set to go to private individuals. He said the quota was being reserved for private individuals in order to accommodate journalists in important countries.

In reply to a question, the official said press officers in foreign countries got residence, the opportunity to admit their children in best educational institutions and were paid salaries in dollars.

“It seems that private persons will be appointed in most lucrative countries. We have no choice but to approach the court against the decision,” he said. In reply to another question, the official said the private persons would also be appointed through the Special Selection Board (SSB) but the final approval was given by the prime minister.

The letter also stated that written tests shall be conducted by Lums, NTS or any other organisation for the selection of the candidates. The performance evaluation reports (PERs) of last five years would be given 10 per cent weightage while the interview shall be given 30 per cent weightage.

Despite repeated attempts, Director General External Publicity Wing Ministry of Information and Broadcasting Imran Gardezi could not be contacted for comments.

Press Secretary to Prime Minister Shafqat Jalil told Dawn that in April 2013 a meeting of the selection board was held in which some officials were selected for appointment in UAE, New York, London and other foreign missions. Some of them went abroad and others started waiting for the permission from the new government.

“The new government stopped the process and now a criterion has been devised for the appointments to get maximum performance. Same is the reason behind training from NUML and tests,” he said.

Published in Dawn, July 12th, 2014


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