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Fawad offers to quit portfolio as PTV crisis deepens

Updated February 25, 2019

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Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry  refuted reports about his resignation but said he was ready for a change of portfolio if he could not work independently. — DawnNewsTV
Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry refuted reports about his resignation but said he was ready for a change of portfolio if he could not work independently. — DawnNewsTV

ISLAMABAD: The ongoing tussle among media managers of the government over the appointment of the managing director of state-run Pakistan Television (PTV) has taken a new turn with federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Fawad Chaudhry offering Prime Minister Imran Khan to change his ministry.

While talking to Dawn on Sunday, the information minister refuted reports about his resignation but said he was ready for a change of portfolio if he could not work independently.

“Neither I have submitted resignation nor has the PM asked me to tender resignation. There are issues, and I have raised those issues with PM... (The) PM has always been kind to me, it’s PM’s trust and personal relationship that is more important to me than any government office,” Mr Chaudhry tweeted earlier in the evening after some channels reported that he had resigned.

Mr Chaudhry said he could not take dictation from some “unelected people” sitting at the Prime Minister Office. Without naming anyone, he said those who could not even win a councillor’s seat wanted to run the information ministry.

Senate committee to take up issue today

He said he had already asked the prime minister either to allow him to work independently or change his ministry as he could not tolerate “interference from outside”.

The minister said the “unelected people” were unaware of the anger among the employees who had not been allowing officials of the senior management to even enter PTV Centre for the past 21 days.

Mr Chaudhry was of the opinion that the appointment of the present managing director of PTV was not in line with the Supreme Court’s decision in the case of former MD Ataul Haq Qasmi.

Divisions and rifts within the media team of the government surfaced last week when Mr Chaudhry during a visit to PTV Centre said some special assistants and advisers to the PM were backing the incumbent MD who was taking a huge salary package despite the financial crisis the PTV was facing.

The minister said the bleak financial condition of the PTV was clear to everybody and they were unable to pay even monthly pensions amounting to a few thousand rupees to former employees, but at the same time, a senior person was netting more than Rs2.5 million per month which was “unfair”.

He said delay in the 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.

The employees had been protesting against measures taken by the PTV management to contain what the latter termed misuse of medical bills in the corporation.

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

Special Assistant to the PM on Political Affairs with the status of the minister of state Naeemul Haque apparently in response to the information minister’s remarks then 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.”

‘Newcomers’ in PTI

He also warned the “newcomers” in the party to follow Mr Khan’s philosophy and that anyone thinking otherwise has no future in 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,” he had stated, in an apparent warning to the information minister, who had joined the PTI before the elections.

Besides the information minister, the prime minister has also appointed Iftikhar Durrani and former PTV MD Yousaf Baig Mirza as his special assistants on media affairs.

Meanwhile, the Senate standing committee on information and broadcasting, headed by PTI’s Faisal Javed, is set to take up the issue of PTV in its meeting on Monday (today).

Published in Dawn, February 25th, 2019