ISLAMABAD: Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Fawad Chaudhry claimed on Friday that Prime Minister Imran Khan would secure a second term in office after next general elections.

The minister said that media in Pakistan, which had faced hard time due to terrorism, was now vibrant and free.

“Prime Minister Imran Khan is the most popular leader in Pakistan as the people, who voted him to power, are still his ardent fans,” he said in an interview with BBC in its Hard Talk programme.

“Even in next general elections, Imran Khan would get majority votes and become prime minister for another tenure,” he claimed.

He said Mr Khan was the prime minister of a nuclear state and he and his cabinet took collective decisions while giving due respect to the opinions of state institutions. “But final decision lies with the prime minister.”

Lawmakers discuss different issues with PM

Replying to a question, Mr Chaudhry said the media in Pakistan enjoyed immense freedom as freedom of expression was a fundamental and democratic right guaranteed by the Constitution of Pakistan.

“Pakistan is one of the freest states as far as media is concerned. There are about 43 international [TV] channels, including BBC, 112 local private channels, 258 FM [radio] channels and 1,569 print publications, and in the presence of such kind of huge mass media, how can the state be accused of intimidating the media,” he wondered.

About stopping a local channel (Aaj TV) from airing a BBC programme, the minister said BBC was the most-watched international channel in Pakistan and the government had never obstructed its transmission. BBC Urdu, he added, would be allowed to telecast its programmes subject to following the local laws.

In reply to a question about a recent attack on journalist Asad Toor in Islamabad, the minister said he had immediately taken cognisance of the matter and a senior police officer was investigating it and those responsible for the act would be apprehended.

Asked whether a spy agency was involved in the attack as claimed by the journalist, the minister said there was no justification in accusing any institution without any cogent evidence. “Such individual incidents do happen everywhere in the world, Pakistan is no exception,” he added.

“Pakistan had been fighting the scourge of terrorism as a frontline state. A number of people lost their lives in the war on terror. This is not something limited to journalists. Former prime minister Benazir Bhutto was also martyred in a terrorist attack. About 70,000 people had been killed in the war against terrorism,” the minister said.

However, he said, the number of incidents of attacks on journalists had declined after the incumbent government assumed responsibilities under the leadership of Prime Minister Khan.

The minister rejected the perception that laws had been passed in Pakistan to curb social media freedom. “Hate speech is a universally recognised fact that has to be curbed. All states and organisations are duty-bound not to allow hate speech,” he added.

Mr Chaudhry said he had huge respect for Google, Facebook and other information technology companies. “I want them to come to Pakistan to open their offices. We want to do business with them. We acknowledge their contribution to the world,” he said.

In reply to another question, Mr Chaudhry said as the information minister of the fifth largest country in the world, he had full authority to take decisions about the affairs [related to his ministry].

Sharing the achievements of the government, he said at present Pakistan’s economic growth rate was 3.94 per cent, despite the Covid-19 crisis. About Rs1,100 billion had shifted from the urban economy to the rural economy, he said. “This year, Pakistan has got four bumper crops,” he said, adding that a record number of tractors had been purchased by farmers.

In response to another question, the minister said that 5.5 million people had been vaccinated against Covid-19 in the country.

Legislators meet PM

A number of legislators of the ruling PTI called on PM Khan and discussed with him various issues, including coming federal budget, south Punjab province and development activities in their constituencies.

Those who met PM Khan included MNAs Shaukat Ali Bhatti, Ahmad Hussain Dehar, Nasrullah Dareshak, Mohammad Khan Jamali and Munawara Bibi Baloch and MPA Khalid Gujjar.

Leader of Opposition in the Sindh Assembly Haleem Adil Sheikh and MNAs Mohammad Iqbal Afridi and Sajida Begum also called on the prime minister.

During a meeting with MNA Dehar, matters relating to South Punjab Secretariat and the progress of work on development projects in his constituency were discussed.

Chairman of the Pakistan Bait-ul-Maal Aun Abbas Bappi also called on PM Khan and lauded the government’s economic policies.

Published in Dawn, May 29th, 2021

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