Rifts emerge within govt media team over PTV crisis

Published February 21, 2019
PM’s aides back PTV high-ups, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry tells anti-management protesters. — File photo
PM’s aides back PTV high-ups, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry tells anti-management protesters. — File photo

ISLAMABAD: Divisions and rifts within the media team of the government surfaced on Wednesday when federal Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said some special assistants and advisers to the prime minister were backing the Pakistan Television managing director who was taking a huge salary package despite the financial crisis PTV was facing.

During a visit to PTV Centre, the minister said the bleak financial condition of PTV was clear to everybody. “We are not able to pay [monthly] pensions amounting to a few thousand rupees, but at the same time, a senior person was netting more than Rs2.5 million per month. This is unfair.”

However, the information minister’s remarks were not welcomed by some senior members of the ruling party who took to social media to explain the situation and to warn the “newcomers in the party” against desisting from the “philosophy of Prime Minister Imran Khan”.

Amid cheers and boos by the striking employees of the state-run TV, the federal minister named PTV MD Arshad Khan and criticised him over his remuneration. The employees had established a protest camp against measures taken by the PTV management to what the latter termed measures to contain misuse of medical bills in the corporation.

PM’s aides back PTV highups, Fawad tells anti-management protesters

Mr Chaudhry assured the PTV employees that they would be given health cards, which would resolve their health care issues. He said the delay in release of pensions and medical bills was due to the financial crunch PTV was facing but the perks and privileges enjoyed by top officials was creating hatred among the employees against the management.

While the minister named the MD, he did not name any of the special assistants or advisers to the prime minister who he said were backing the PTV managing director.

He said, “A few points before us are very clear. The main issue is that in the Prime Minister House there are some unelected people who do not understand politics, and the anger among the employees was because the management had set Rs2.5 million salary for itself, and I have also written a letter about the performance of this senior official.”

However, special assistant to the prime minister Naeemul Haque apparently in response to the information minister’s remarks tweeted: “The Prime Minister has full confidence in the Board of PTV and its management and believes PTV should be an independent organisation like BBC and the government will take all steps necessary towards that end.”

He also warned the “newcomers” in the party to follow Mr Khan’s philosophy and that anyone thinking otherwise has no future in Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI). On the social networking site, he posted: “All the newcomers in PTI must understand and follow the philosophy of Imran Khan. PTI is a strong ideological movement and its success has been due to steadfast determination of its leader to pursue justice and fairness.

“Anyone thinking otherwise has no future in the party.”

The information minister’s address to protesting workers triggered a wave of slogans against the PTV MD. “The democratic governments and those who come to power with the power of vote do not impose restrictions on unions,” he remarked.

Mr Chaudhry said, “I have written it to the information secretary and the Islamabad police IG that the information ministry was standing with PTV employees.”

He said he had written a letter to the PM and the board of PTV to seek answer to a simple question. “We make the content first and sell it in the next step. The PTV board has hired sales managers at Rs1.6 million per month salary whereas there is no content and no business plan,” he added.

Mr Chaudhry said: “We need to devise a long-term plan to steer PTV out of current crises and it is possible only with the cooperation with the employees.

“It is clear that the incumbent management of PTV has to leave.”

In a separate development, National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser said Pakistani media should play a proactive role in highlighting Pakistan stance of maintaining peace in the region.

He was talking with a Parliamentary Reporters Association (PRA) delegation at parliament house on Wednesday.

Mr Qaiser assured the journalists that he was ready to play his role for resolution of media crisis and asked the PRA to submit their suggestions in black and white.

He assured them that he would put their suggestion and a proposal to form special parliamentary committee before Prime Minister Imran Khan to resolve the issues being faced by the media.

He informed that 700 laws had been identified which needed amendments and in this regard a special committee would be constituted to review proposed amendments before presenting these on the floor of the house.

In reply to a question, he said mandate of each political party would be given due respect in the house.

Published in Dawn, February 21st, 2019

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