ISLAMABAD: Expressing concern over the ongoing anti-Pakistan propaganda campaign on social media, Minister for Information and Broadcasting Fawad Chaudhry on Monday said that during the recent protests by the Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) on the blasphemy issue, more than 300,000 tweets originated from Indian city of Ahmedabad within three-and-a-half minutes.
The minister said this in his winding up speech in the National Assembly during a debate on the cut motions moved by the opposition members seeking symbolic reduction in the allocation for the information ministry due to its poor performance.
The minister told the lower house of parliament that recently an “info-lab” was detected through which 845 fake websites had been created that fed fake news against Pakistan to the international media. Through these websites, he said, the Kashmir struggle was being questioned and particularly “sub-nationalism in Balochistan” was being promoted.
“So much so that during the TLP protests, more than 300,000 tweets originated from Indian city of Ahmedabad, which is known as an information technology city, within three and half minutes,” the minister said.
Fawad says over 300,000 tweets originated from Ahmedabad within minutes during TLP protests
He said fake news mainly generated from three to four different places of India get boost from Afghanistan and then reach Pakistan to meet further targets for petty gains.
Mr Chaudhry wondered why the UK media had given high coverage to a protest in front of Pakistan embassy and the interview of an organiser was also given coverage by top London media. He claimed that all 250 local and 43 foreign channels were working with full freedom in the country.
Meanwhile, the National Assembly completed the second and most crucial phase of the budget process on Monday by approving demands of grants for various ministries and divisions, rejecting 466 cut motions of the opposition on four ministries — information and broadcasting, national food security and research, national health services and regulation and railways — through voice vote.
The government faced no difficulty in getting these demands approved due to the non-serious attitude of opposition parties as majority of its members, including the top leadership, remained absent from the proceedings for the second consecutive day, making the task easier for the government.
The federal budget for the fiscal year 2021-22 will be presented in the National Assembly for a final vote on Tuesday and the NA Secretariat has already issued the agenda.
In parliamentary democracy all over the world, voting on demands for grants and cut motions is considered a crucial phase of the budget session as the opposition members get an opportunity to give a tough time to the government. During the voting, both the government and the opposition make arrangements to ensure maximum participation of their members in the house.
However, the opposition members did not even challenge the ruling of the speaker on the voice votes, knowing that they were well short of numbers as compared to the treasury members.
Weeks before presentation of the budget, the opposition leaders, including Leader of the Opposition and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) president Shehbaz Sharif and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, had repeatedly announced that they would not let the government pass the budget from parliament and do whatever they could to achieve this goal.
Speaking in support of their cut motions, the opposition members delivered speeches and mostly raised the points which they had already talked about during the general debate on the budget that had been presented on June 11.
No threat to journalists
The information minister claimed that there was no threat to journalists in the country and termed such reports a part of the international campaign to defame Pakistan.
“It is said that in Pakistan, journalists do not have security and they are facing threats. This is international propaganda,” he said, though he did not give any reply to the questions raised by the opposition members regarding the recent attacks on Matiuallah Jan, Absar Alam and Sajid Toor and a ban on TV anchor Hamid Mir.
Providing statistics, Mr Chaudhry said that 32 journalists had lost their lives in 39 attacks during the tenure of the PPP and another 14 journalists were killed in 18 attacks during the PML-N government time. During the present government’s tenure, he said, only eight incidents of attack on journalists had been reported so far. He claimed that the incidents happened during the present government’s time were being investigated and were pending before courts.
He said that two journalists — Aziz Memon and Ajay Malwani — were murdered in PPP-ruled Sindh and there had been no progress in the two cases.
The minister admitted that the External Publicity Wing (EPW) of his ministry was not performing well and it had failed to project Pakistan’s narrative at the international level over the past 20 years when the country fought a war against terrorism.
He, however, held the previous governments’ “weak media policy” as responsible for the state of affairs in the EPW. Besides this, he said, the total allocated budget of the EPW was Rs40.5 million, whereas India was spending Rs21 billion for this purpose. And this, he said, not included the budget of Bollywood which made films against Pakistan.
The minister said several innovative steps were being taken to improve the performance of state media organisations to represent national narrative at the international level. Unlike the past practice of state media just projecting the ruling party, he said, the Pakistan Tehreek-i -Insaf (PTI) government had ensured to use state media as spokesperson for the state.
The minister said wars in the world were now fought through the victory of one’s narrative. Ironically, no heed was paid to that aspect in past, he regretted.
He said digitalisation of official media, including Associated Press of Pakistan (APP), Pakistan Broadcasting Corporation and Pakistan Television (PTV), would be initiated by August this year.
Mr Chaudhry added that the functioning of APP would be on modern lines like any international news agency such as AFP and Reuters. He said PTV was being made a complete HD channel with technology and programming of modern era.
Published in Dawn, June 29th, 2021