Radio Pakistan employees hold up placards at the protest on Constitution Avenue in Islamabad on Monday. — White Star
Radio Pakistan employees hold up placards at the protest on Constitution Avenue in Islamabad on Monday. — White Star

ISLAMABAD: Radio Pakistan staffers blocked Constitution Avenue on Monday in protest of the proposal to move the headquarters of the Pakistan Broadcast Corporation (PBC) and lease its existing building.

The PBC collective bargaining agent (CBA) shouted slogans against the proposals and said they would take any measures to protect the PBC’s assets. They then marched towards Constitution Avenue and blocked one side of the road, obstructing traffic.

The assistant commissioner asked the protesters to clear the road, but they refused to do so unless Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry negotiated with them. The assistant commissioner assured them of a meeting with the minister, after which the employees cleared the road. Mr Chaudhry arrived to meet the protesters after around 20 minutes.

PBC CBA Secretary General Ijaz Ahmed told Dawn that 10 members of the CBA negotiated with the minister in the board of directors’ room in PBC headquarters.

“The minister told us that a committee headed by Dr Ishrat Hussain has sought proposals to lease the land. He also said that the PBC should send in writing that the PBC headquarters should not be shifted to the training academy otherwise it would become difficult to oppose the shifting,” he said.

“We also asked about rumours that daily-wage employees would be dismissed, but the minister assured us that no such step would be taken,” Mr Ahmed said.

CBA Chairman Ahmed Nawaz Niazi said the employees would never allow the assets of the PBC to be sold, and would go to any extent to protect them, while CBA President Chaudhry Asad Gujjar said the government should not take such steps without taking employees into confidence.

A letter from the Ministry of Information, signed by director of the minister’s office Danyal Gilani and available with Dawn, was received by Radio Pakistan last week.

The letter to the PBC director general said that the minister for information and broadcasting had directed for a proposal to be prepared to lease the Radio Pakistan headquarters long-term and move PBC headquarters to the PBC Academy in H-9.

Mr Chaudhry supported the proposal at a press conference and asked why Radio Pakistan needed a large building when FM radio stations could be run out of small houses.

The Radio Pakistan building is located in the Red Zone, a stone’s throw from the Prime Minister’s Office.

Published in Dawn, September 25th, 2018

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