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LAHORE: Punjab information secretary Raja Jahangir told the Supreme Court on Thursday that Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif was ready to pay the amount spent on a media campaign run on television channels to highlight the performance of the provincial government.

A three-member bench headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar was hearing a suo motu notice against the media advertisements of the government showing pictures of the chief minister ahead of the general elections in the country.

The secretary stated that the chief minister was informed about the observations made by the bench on last hearing against running a media campaign of the government’s performance with public money. He said the chief minister showed total respect for the judges’ remarks and volunteered to pay Rs5.5 million from his pocket, earlier paid to 12 television channels for a one-day broadcasting of the advertisement.

Chief Justice Nisar accepted the undertaking of the secretary and directed him to submit a receipt of the payment on the next hearing.

CJP Nisar directs information secretary to submit receipt of payment on next hearing

During the last hearing, the chief justice had questioned the media campaign of Shahbaz Sharif government’s ‘performance’ with the taxpayers’ money. He had observed that such a media campaign amounted to pre-poll rigging since general elections were round the corner.

The chief justice had further observed that the chief minister should have paid for the advertisement from his own pocket as the court could not allow misuse of public money.

Earlier the information secretary told the bench that Rs129m had been paid to print and electronic media against the government’s advertisement during February.

The huge sum incurred upon the government’s ads irked the bench and the chief justice observed, “Is there a dynasty in the country?” He asked the information secretary to cite any example in the world where governments ran such campaigns.

The nearly four-minute-long ad, which invited the wrath of the court, was also shown in the courtroom on an electronic screen projector. After watching the advertisement, Chief Justice Nisar observed that it had nothing except the budget spent by the government in different sectors. “The chief minister could have shared all this information in his speech to any public meeting,” the chief justice told the secretary.

The bench ordered all the provinces to submit a record of the government advertisements showing pictures of the respective chief ministers with break-up of payments made to each media house.

The bench would resume further hearing at Islamabad on a date to be fixed by the court office.

The court also issued a notice to the All Pakistan Newspapers Society.

Published in Dawn, March 9th, 2018