Government plans to fight ‘media campaign’
By: Khawar Ghumman
ISLAMABAD: Enough is enough. The government decided on Wednesday to ‘combat’ what it called a deliberate and vicious media campaign against the ruling Pakistan People’s Party.
The federal cabinet formed a four-member committee comprising ministers for information, defence, law and finance to come up with a report within a fortnight on allegations of corruption against the government.
“The committee will determine the veracity of these reports whether or not they are based on facts. The committee will also unmask those forces which have vested interests in stigmatising the ruling party with baseless accusations of corruption. And with the general election round the corner, one can easily understand the motive behind this campaign,” Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira told reporters at a press briefing.
The findings of the committee would be shared with the media and general public, he added.
“Yes, there is corruption, like any other country of the developing world, but to put its entire blame on the federal government or for that matter on the PPP is absolutely unjustifiable,” he said in reply to a question. He said the PPP had been targeted with similar campaigns in the past, but it bounced back by winning more votes.
Referring to media reports which suggest that the country was losing Rs7 billion every day to corruption, Mr Kaira questioned the basis of the findings and said the federal government had a budget of about Rs3 trillion and a large chunk of it was used for salaries, debt retirement and defence purposes.
“If the government is losing Rs7 billion on a daily basis, or over Rs2.5 trillion annually, in corruption, then who is providing this money to the government. The figure is beyond our comprehension.”
Mr Kaira said that after the NFC award, the provinces had been made financially autonomous and they were using a major portion of the federal receipts, which after the 18th Amendment “we are regularly transferring to the provinces”.
When asked about a statement of the National Accountability Bureau chairman issued earlier in the day about the bureau’s plan to release a report on corruption in the country, Mr Kaira said let the report come out first.
Although members of the cabinet have been barred from talking to the media about proceedings of the meeting, a minister said that a number of cabinet members had urged the prime minister to take note of the relentless ongoing media campaign against the federal government.
According to him, one of ministers said the government should file cases against all those individuals and organisations which were behind this media campaign because it could hurt their election campaigns. “We should put them behind bars because we have become synonymous for corruption due to such media reports,” another minister was quoted as saying.
A number of ministers who spoke on the occasion were critical of the government for what they called its lacklustre response to the increasing number of media reports accusing the government of unbridled corruption.
In its report issued on Dec 6, the Transparency International said the corruption situation in Pakistan had worsened as its ranking on the Corruption Perception Index had fallen from the 42nd most corrupt country in 2011 to 33rd this year. The Transparency International in the recent past also highlighted alleged corrupt practices in leasing of planes for PIA and auction of 3G licence.
MINORITY SEATS: The cabinet endorsed an amendment bill to increase reserved seats for minorities in the national and provincial assemblies.
Information Minister Kaira said if passed by parliament the number of seats for minorities would be increased from 10 to 14 in the National Assembly, three to four in Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa assemblies, eight to 10 in Punjab Assembly and nine to 12 in Sindh Assembly.
The Senate has already increased its reserved seats for minorities to four.
Akram Masih Gill, Minister of State for National Harmony, who was present at the press briefing, praised the coalition government for listening to the long-standing demand of minorities in the country.