Govt-run radio stations face closure in Fata
LANDI KOTAL: Three government-run radio stations in Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) are faced with the danger of closure, as the Fata Secretariat has withheld payment of salaries to employees and other related operational expenditures of these stations since the start of this year.
“We are awaiting payment of our salaries and other operational charges since January despite several reminders to officials concerned at the Fata Secretariat,” some employees of the affected radio stations told Dawn on condition of anonymity.
They conceded that their services were hired on temporary basis under a project financed by the USAID back in 2004 and 2006 and its tenure expired in December 2012. Under the project, four FM radio stations were established in Wana, Miramshah, Razmak and Jamrud in 2004, 2005 and 2006, respectively. The building of Wana radio station was blown up by militants in 2009 and it remained off air since then.
The remaining three stations continued their broadcast despite technical and operational difficulties besides militant threats to the employees in Miramshah and Razmak.
Radio Khyber, established in Jamrud in May 2006, became very popular not only in Khyber, but its programmes were also heard and liked by thousands of listeners in Mohmand Agency, Shabqadar, Charsadda, Peshawar, Nowshera and Mardan.
Radio Khyber suspended its broadcasts on Saturday after the power generator installed at the station developed a fault on Friday night. The generator could not be repaired due to scarcity of funds.
“It is extremely unfortunate that we had been demanding regularisation of our services and establishment of more radio stations in other parts of tribal areas, but the Fata Secretariat has stopped payment of salaries and other routine operational expenses, which we have already spent,” said a concerned employee.
They said that due to excessive power loadshedding they were compelled to run the stations on generators for which they were authorised by the secretariat to borrow fuel on credit from filling stations in their respective areas.
“The fuel stations have now refused to provide us more fuel as the credit limit has now exceeded a million rupees for the three stations,” they said and added that it was no more possible for them to keep the three radio stations operational.
These employees had in the past conducted a series of correspondence with the Presidency, Federal Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Ministry of States and Frontier Regions, and Directorate of Information, Fata Secretariat, to get their services regularised and save the radio stations from closure after the USAID-funded project was wound up in December last year.
“We knocked at every door in order to get our future secured and keep the radio stations operational,” they said. They added that the former Fata parliamentarians, including the present KP governor – who was then minister for SAFRON – had endorsed their point of view and had also recommended to the President and other authorities for sustaining the three radio stations and regularisation of all the employees.
When contacted, director information, Fata, Fazalullah told Dawn that a PC-1 had been drafted and the Fata Secretariat had also procured Rs62 million for salaries and other related expenditures of the three radio stations.
“There are some legal lacunas and the existing services rules do not allow us to regularise services of the employees as they were hired on temporary basis,” he explained the reason for delay in release of the required funds.
He said that the Fata secretary admin was in touch with the accountant general and secretary finance to resolve the issue, as the existing staff hired on temporary basis did not fulfill the criteria and job description of the new posts to be created. “Under the services rules, we are under obligation to advertise all the posts and make fresh recruitments as all these posts stand vacant after the expiry of the previous foreign-funded project. But we are trying to regularise the services of the existing lot instead of acquiring fresh candidates by altering some service rules,” he said.
Fazalullah also dispelled the impression that the radio stations were facing closure and said that alongside making these stations more vibrant and operational, the secretariat wanted to encourage private sector to establish more FM radio stations in Fata.