ISLAMABAD, Sept 13: The Supreme Court summoned on Thursday three years’ record of the information ministry from the Auditor General of Pakistan.

A two-judge bench comprising Justice Jawwad S. Khawaja and Justice Khilji Arif Hussain had taken up a joint petition filed by TV anchors in which the government has been accused of doling out billions of rupees from the ministry’s secret fund to win over media houses and journalists.

Adjourning the hearing to Monday, the court also ordered the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) and the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) to submit complete record of advertising agency Midas (Pvt) Ltd.

On Wednesday, Punjab’s Information Secretary Mohyuddin Wani drew the attention of the court to a financial wrongdoing of Rs623 million allegedly committed by Midas, which had been blacklisted by the Punjab government. Its chief executive Inam Akbar was absconding, he added.

The court ordered the SECP to submit its report by Friday. Otherwise the chairman would be summoned for Sept 17. A TV anchor, Absar Alam, one of the petitioners, alleged that public money was being misused. Citing figures from budget documents, he informed the court that Rs123.8 million was allocated for a special publicity campaign, Rs300 million in aid to the All Pakistan Newspapers Society (APNS), Rs440 million for various campaigns for government’s propaganda, Rs12.8 million on secret service expenditure, Rs500 million to advertising agencies and television channels, Rs390 million to Azad Kashmir TV, Rs900 million to PTV Multan, Rs25 million to Press Council of Pakistan and Rs300 million to Radio Pakistan.

He claimed that the court had been provided details from supplementary grants which had not been mentioned anywhere in the budget.

Talking to reporters after the hearing, Mr Alam said the petitioners were fighting a war against the “media houses which have become agents of the government and use taxpayers’ money for personal gains”.

Meanwhile, Hamid Mir, another petitioner, claimed that the central office of APNS was being built in Karachi with the funds of the information ministry. He said the credibility of the media in Pakistan had been damaged by some ‘black sheep’.

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