How Axact TV project moved on despite ISI, ministry’s objection
ISLAMABAD: The Interior Ministry, which is the authority to issue security clearance for a new satellite TV channel or any new owner under the law, has never issued a valid security clearance to the Axact’s channel and withdrew an invalidly-issued NOC when the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) intimated the ministry and Pemra that the NOC to the channel was issued without its knowledge and seeking mandatory comments.
The ISI wrote a letter to the Interior Ministry and Pemra after the licenses and all approvals for the Axact’s channel were issued. However, despite receiving the letter, the Pemra chairman continued further approvals and endorsements to Axact’s channels during the caretaker government’s regime which was unusual.
The ISI had not issued security clearance for the Axact’s channel and when the then interior secretary issued an NOC on March 25, 2013 without taking the ISI and IB input, the ISI objected to the issuance of security clearance after issuance of license to Axact’s channels and also wrote to the Interior Ministry that it was unable to understand as to how Axact channel owners had been issued the NOC.
The case of seeking approvals for Bol was initiated on March 4, 2013 simply 10 days before the end of tenure of the PPP government. The case was being pursued by the then chairman Pemra who was also appointed a few days before in January 2013.
The Pemra allowed the change in management and induction of new directors (Shoaib Sheikh and his wife, Vaqas Atiq and his wife) in a company M/s Labaik on March 14, 2013 subject to security clearance, provision of SECP documents and registration of name of its new channel with the IPO.
M/s Labbaik owned a TV channel with name “AKS”, which was renamed as “BoL TV” and then as “BoL Entertainment” by chairman Pemra. Under well-defined procedure, the Pemra sent a letter to the Interior Ministry on March 21, 2013 seeking security clearance for new directors of M/s Labbaik (Company to launch, manage and control BoL News and Bol Entertainment; an Axact project).
Under defined procedure, the Interior Ministry used to send such letters to ISI and IB seeking security clearance and input and after receiving that input it issued NOC letter or reject it. The letter reached the Interior Ministry on March 22, 2013 and then there were two public holidays on March 23 and March 24 (Sunday).
In an unprecedented display of indecent haste, the Interior Ministry issued a letter in only two days whereas in usual routine this process usually takes several weeks. The then secretary interior Khawaja Siddique Akbar issued security clearance to M/s Labbaik on March 25, 2013 (Monday) and sent the NOC letter to Pemra the same day without even seeking report from the ISI and IB.
It is worth mentioning here that on this day (March 25, 2013), the then nominated caretaker Prime Minister Mir Hazaar Khan Khoso was taking oath and it was last day of Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf in his office.
Khoso was nominated caretaker PM by the ECP on March 24 and previous ministers of Raja Pervaiz Ashraf cabinet were non-functional since March 15, 2013 (the date of completion of term of assemblies) but were in fact functioning unofficially.
After receiving NOC from the Interior Ministry, The Pemra chairman issued an approval letter of change in management (Giving license of BoL to Axact owners, i.e. Shoaib Sheikh) on March 26, 2013 without taking the SECP and IPO documents from Axact owners.
After issuance of all licenses and approvals by the Pemra, the ISI wrote to the Interior Ministry and Pemra on April 9, 2013 (letters received in Interior Ministry on April 10, 2013 and on April 22, 2013 in Pemra) and showed its ignorance of issuance of any such clearance.
The ISI letter (3998/Labaik/Sec-103(B) dated April 9, 2013 was written by Lt Col Imtiaz Ahmad to Syed Ayyaz H Hamdani, Section Officer (KP). Ministry of interior, Islamabad and to Ch Junaid Ali Khan, Assistant General Manager (Licensing/STV) PEMRA.
The letter reads; “Subject: Security vetting – M/s Labbaik (Pvt) Ltd.
Your letter U.O.No.9/75/2013-S-III dated 25 March 2013 refers.
1- Case for security vetting of newly inducted directors neither received by this HQ nor any comments forwarded on the subject. It is not understood how the N.O.C. to Pemra has been issued by your office.
2- Please reconcile.”
According to this letter, the Interior Ministry intimated the ISI after issuing security clearance of new directors (Axact owners) of M/s Labbaik on March 25, 2013. The ISI wrote letter to the Interior Ministry and Pemra on April 9, 2013.
According to official record, Chairman Pemra Chaudhry Rasheed had completed the process of issuance of license to Axact owners before this date April 9, 2013.
However, when the new government came into power and the Interior Ministry realized its mistake, the earlier invalidly issued NOC letter was withdrawn by it on July 4, 2013.
The Axact owners have taken a stay order against this July 4, 2013 letter of the Interior Ministry written to the Pemra. However, the Interior Ministry again wrote another letter to the Pemra on July 5, 2013 stating that the earlier NOC issued to new directors (Axact owners) was illegally issued as laid-down procedure was not followed while issuing it. So presently the Interior Ministry which is the only authority under law to issue any security clearance has not issued security clearance to M/s Labbaik for the Axact’s project of TV channels.
Now it can be seen that Pemra did nothing to stop Axact from moving ahead with its TV channel project despite the interior ministry’s revocation of its security clearance (NOC) in the light of ISI letter.
Section 25 of the Pemra laws states quite clearly that a licence to operate a television channel shall not be given to any entity the majority shares of which are foreign-owned. 99.99 percent of shares in Axact Pakistan are owned by a foreign company Axact FZ LLC, Dubai, with Shoaib Shaikh and his wife only holding a miniscule percentage of shares.
This has also been clear in many other ways, with satellite transponders used for the broadcast of Bol transmissions registered in Axact’s name, trademarks of Bol News and Bol Entertainment also registered in the name of Axact, Labbaik having the same address as Axact and both Bol and Axact acting as sister entities in all kinds of legal matters. This can also be ascertained from SECP and Pemra record, but can be doubted by only those who are determined not to see it. This fact is also clearly stated on social media, Axact website and speeches of Axact chief Shoaib and other directors. Kamran Khan also endorsed and appreciated this at the Axact function. Therefore, license shouldn’t have been awarded the license as it was a actually a foreign firm getting the license by cheating the law. This is a company that is expert in handling its matters including tax issues by securing stay orders.
Many questions raised in the News York Times story had already been raised by Jang and The News in 2013. Those questions were dismissed as conspiracy theory in a competitive market.