No media courts without organisations’ will: Firdous

Updated 27 Jul 2019

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Says former rulers misused PIA, diverted flights 21 times during last 10 years. — DawnNewsTV/File
Says former rulers misused PIA, diverted flights 21 times during last 10 years. — DawnNewsTV/File

ISLAMABAD: Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Information Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan has said the government will not set up media courts without the will of media organisations.

“The government has no intention of imposing media courts on the media,” she said while speaking at a press conference here on Friday. She said the draft of media courts prepared by the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) had been shared with the Pakistan Broadcasting Association, All Pak­istan Newspapers Society and Council of Pakistan Newspapers Editors for seeking their point of view.

Dr Awan said Pemra was of the view that if media courts were established, the backlog of 1,157 cases of Pemra, media organisations and media workers could be disposed of in a short span of time. She said the idea of media courts was aimed at redressing problems of media houses and their workers and not imposing curbs on the freedom of the media.

Says former rulers misused PIA, diverted flights 21 times during last 10 years

When asked why the media coverage of opposition leaders, including PML-N vice president Maryam Nawaz, was blocked during the ‘black day’ observed by the opposition on the first anniversary of the 2018 general elections, Dr Awan said the government had not imposed any such restrictions as Pemra was an independent and autonomous body and taking its own decision in the light of the court verdict.

In reply to a question about PTI leader Jahangir Tareen’s involvement in government affairs despite having been disqualified by the Supreme Court, she said there was a big difference between the cases of Mr Tareen and Maryam Nawaz. “Maryam is convicted, while Mr Tareen is only a disqualified person and, therefore, can attend government meetings,” she added.

About the government’s decision to remove air-conditioner from former prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s room in jail, she said Prime Minister Imran Khan had directed the jail authorities to give equal treatment to all convicts.

PIA controversy

Dr Awan said the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA), had been misused by former rulers from the PPP and PML-N. “They used the national flag carrier as ‘Chingchi rickshaw’ and diverted PIA flights 21 times during the last 10 years,” she said, adding that more than 50 VIP flights were operated that cost the nation Rs1.6 billion.

The PM’s assistant said 45 PIA flights were operated just to take relatives and maids to different destinations between 2015 and 2017 that put an additional burden of Rs954 million on the national exchequer. She said the prime minister had decided to recover from the former rulers the money spent on their private visits and medical treatments.

Dr Awan claimed that the government had streamlined the PIA affairs and now it was turning into a profitable organisation from a loss-making entity. “This year the income of PIA has gone up by 34 per cent.”

She said the government had decided to send cases of misuse of PIA to the newly formed inquiry commission. She said the prime minister had directed the officials concerned to furnish details of expenditure of the present government in cabinet meetings. “PM Khan has also asked them to bring details of his 10 months’ expenditures,” she added.

About the government’s decision to bring five regulatory bodies — Pakistan Telecommunication Auth­ority, Frequency Allocation Board, Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority, National Electric Power Regulatory Authority and Public Procurement Regulatory Authority — under the cabinet instead of their relevant ministries, Dr Awan said the basic idea behind the move was to provide a one-window facility to investors.

Published in Dawn, July 27th, 2019