ISLAMABAD, Oct 10: In an unexpected move, the government has quietly brought back Yousuf Baig Mirza as managing director of Pakistan Television (PTV).
Mr Mirza has already served in this position twice. Interestingly, he was first brought in by former prime minister Nawaz Sharif in January 1998, and continued to serve until March of 2003 when Gen (retired) Pervez Musharraf was in power.
Mr Mirza was again made the chief of PTV by former prime minister Shaukat Aziz in April 2007. He served in the position for little over one year till Dr Shahid Masood took over the charge from him.
On Saturday, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani notified his appointment with immediate affect.
The PTV's controller for public relations, Ali Akbar Abbas, said immediately after the issuance of the notification Mr Mirza took over the charge of his office because the position could not be left unoccupied for long. He said the new MD would be visiting the PTV premises on Monday.
The outgoing managing director, Arshad Khan, told Dawn that he was yet to be officially communicated about his future. “I really don't know whether the government has terminated my contract or wanted to use my services in some other department.”
He said he had a contract with the government until December 2011.
Sources at the Prime Minister's Secretariat said the government was not happy with Mr Khan's handling of the national television channel.
When they were reminded that Mr Khan had brought about an improvement in the financial health of the organisation, the sources said the government was hardly concerned about the organisation's business health. Instead, it wanted positive publicity.
For quite some time, the sources said, the government had been a victim of bad press and it wanted to use available means, PTV being at the forefront, to highlight its achievements.
They said the government had terminated Mr Khan's contract and he would be informed about it through proper channel.
The PTV administration was also taken aback when news regarding change of the MD started appearing on various private TV channels on Saturday and then formally confirmed by official sources.
“On October 7, we had a gathering at the PTV headquarters where Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira who was the chief guest touched limits in praising Mr Khan for bringing professionalism to the national channel,” a top official of the PTV said.Previously, whenever the government had planned to change the managing director of PTV everybody in the organisation knew about it. But in the case of Mr Arshad Khan, it was simply a decision which came out of the blue and which surprised everybody in the organisation, he added.
Despite repeated attempts the information minister was not available for his comments.
When Arshad Khan took over PTV in December 2008, it was suffering from the bad cash flow. In 2008, the PTV had an annual loss of Rs320 million which within one year he converted into Rs120 million profit.
Meanwhile, the PTV got away with Rs443 million overdraft it had consumed over the years. During the last couple of years, PTV had recovered Rs500 million of its Rs590 million stuck up with private advertising companies.
Mr Khan has recently renegotiated a deal with ESPN, an international sports channel, for International Cricket Council (ICC) rights, which saved a whopping Rs340 million of the national channel. Interestingly, the shadowy deal was first negotiated by Mr Baig during his second tenure as managing director of PTV.