THE federal cabinet has disallowed PTV to enter into an agreement with an Indian company for broadcast rights to telecast the Pakistan-England cricket series starting next month in England. It has been a settled matter that PTV always telecasts the Pakistan team’s matches wherever they are being played to ensure that cricket fans in the country are not deprived of the opportunity to see their team in action. However, now the cabinet has thrown a spanner in the works. The reason cited is that as long as India does not reverse its illegal actions of Aug 5, 2019, Pakistan cannot improve ties with it. Therefore, PTV should not enter into any contractual agreement with any Indian company even if it means not telecasting the bilateral series.
The cabinet decision is strange. This is not really a decision that should concern the cabinet. PTV is an autonomous organisation with a board of directors fully authorised to make these decisions. By taking the decision to the cabinet, the PTV board and the information minister are signalling they are not empowered enough to run the affairs of PTV. The cabinet should have sent the decision back to PTV. However, the cabinet in its wisdom decided to link the decision to its foreign policy objectives which does not make much sense. Sports should be kept away from politics even if India is following such an unwise policy. The government, unfortunately, is trying to flex its nationalistic muscles at the expense of its own citizens’ rights. It should review this decision and allow PTV to negotiate the best possible agreement with the company so that the people of Pakistan can enjoy watching their team’s performance in England. PTV and its newly formed board composed mostly of government personnel, should not forget that it is financed by taxpayer money. Since it cannot provide the taxpayer independent and credible news and current affairs — despite tall claims by the government of converting it into a BBC type organisation — it should at least not deprive citizens of cricket.
Published in Dawn, June 13th, 2021