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‘PID never used for political purposes’

‘PID never used for political purposes’

ISLAMABAD: The press centre of the Press Information Department (PID) can be used by all government functionaries who draw salaries and perks from the national exchequer, including MNAs and senators.

This was stated by Principal Information Officer (PIO) Rao Tehseen during a briefing to the Senate standing committee on information and broadcasting on Monday.

He said the press conference hall at the PID can also be used by MNAs belonging to parties who are not in the government.

“But the PID facilities have never been used for political purposes,” Mr Tehseen said.

He was responding to a question by the chairman of the committee, Senator Kamil Ali Agha, about the use of the facilities at the state-owned PID for holding press conferences for political purposes.

“There is no need for any proof to see that the PID facilities are being used to convey a political agenda. How can you deny it?” Senator Agha asked the PIO.

However, Mr Tehseen added that only government activities were highlighted in the PID as it was a part of the information ministry.

“Usually, when there is a press conference by the information minister, the mediapersons ask questions related to politics but that cannot be termed a political activity,” Mr Tehseen said.

However, without naming any party, Senator Agha referred to the recent press conference held by the PTI in the PID and said: “You have even allowed another political party to hold a press conference there.”

He asked the PIO to present the details of press conferences held in the PID during the last three months and the expenditures incurred on it.

“Besides, we want to know the rules under which permission is granted to hold a press conference in the PID.”

The chairman of the committee directed Secretary Information Imran Gardezi to ensure that these directives were implemented by the next meeting. However, the directives irked Information Minister Senator Pervaiz Rasheed.

The minister said holding press conferences in the PID had been a culture of successive governments, and that conducting a three-month specific inquiry was unfair.

“I do not understand the reason for seeking a record of the press conferences. Press conferences were held in the PID during the previous government and even the Musharraf era.”

Though Senator Agha, who belongs to the PML-Q, remained calm, Senator Sussi Palijo of the PPP interrupted the minister several times and even accused him of suppressing her voice.

Senator Pervaiz Rasheed, however, continued that there had been several improvements in the operations of his ministry, adding the ‘secret fund’ was abolished. But Ms Palijo interrupted again and said it was done only on the directives of the Supreme Court.

Eventually, Senator Agha said he wanted to understand the system.

“We should have the rules to see who can use the PID facilities and for what purpose,” he said, adding: “We should all make it clear for the future that the government is different from the ruling party.”

The committee was informed that the PTI and Senator Abdul Ghafoor Haidary of the JUI-F had recently held press conferences in the PID.

The meeting was also informed that Rs11.16 million were spent by the information ministry on the recent advertising campaign following the Panama leaks.

Besides, the government also spent around Rs9 billion under the head of advertisements during the last three years.

The meeting also formed a sub-committee, headed by Senator Dr Ashok Kumar, to inquire into the operations and issues related to Lok Virsa.

Published in Dawn, May 10th, 2016

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