Pakistan People's Party Government had filed reference to get names of media men in 2002 -Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Paksitan Press Foundtion

Pakistan People’s Party Government had filed reference to get names of media men in 2002

By: Usman Manzoor

ISLAMABAD: Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan’s statement that journalists and media houses were being “bought” by the incumbent PPP government has set tongues wagging about their names, but ironically, exactly 10 years ago, the PPP was asking the same question from the then military government.

The PPP had filed a reference in the National Accountability Bureau asking for revelation of names of journalists who were bribed to write in favour to the then government. The current Senate Chairman, Syed Nayyar Hussain Bokhari, on behalf of the PPP, had filed a reference on 06-08-2002 in NAB when the Information Ministry admitted before the Public Accounts Committee about presence of secret funds. But the names were never revealed, and it is feared that this time too, the names of black sheep among the media would never come on record.

Not only this, the journalists have always remained out of the loop of accountability as neither the names and amounts disbursed among those who ‘prayed’ with General Zia ul Haq were revealed nor of those who were paid Rs5.6 million by General (r) Rafaqat during the 90s as described in Asghar Khan’s case. Either it is a democratic civilian government or the military dictatorship, the media remains immune from being questioned about its misdeeds, wrong doings or the acceptance of plots and other financial benefits from successive governments. The reference filed by PPP in 2002, makes an interesting reading.

The ‘Reference/Complaint No XIII’ titled ‘Misuse of Secret Funds – Ministry of Information’ filed to Lieutenant General Munir Hafeez, the then NAB Chairman says that a news item published in The News on July 28, 2002, confirms the said abuse of office by the Secretary Information before PAC.

“The Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) is highly concerned that rampant corruption is taking place under the present military regime. Now the diversion of funds under use of secret funds by the ministry is evidence of bribery and corruption by the state to get distorted stories printed against its political rivals. The nation has a right to know the names of the journalists who received the sums and the articles that they wrote in that connection.

Governments do hire press people as consultants and pay them openly and transparently so that there is legality. The secret payment of funds is odious and it smells of corruption. It is the job of NAB to avoid abusing its own office by investigating cases of corruption honestly.

The Pakistan People’s Party is of the view that after the publication of the report, NAB should have taken a suo moto notice to investigate the government’s efforts to hire journalists. The public has the right to know which news items are published on behalf of the government and which journalists are paid out of the Ministry of Information secret funds. They cannot be denied the information on the basis of secrecy about the utilization of public funds.

It is hoped that NAB under your leadership would investigate the matter regarding doling out huge sums of money to the journalists, writers and columnists, and the outcome of the investigation will be made public.”

It is worth mentioning here that in 2002, the government for the first time officially confirmed to the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) that a ‘secret fund’ exits in the Ministry of Information to dole out heavy amounts to different writers, columnists, journalists and others to conduct ‘research’ where needed and write in favour of government policies.

It was also confirmed to PAC that a sum of Rs15million given by the then exiled premier Nawaz Sharif to the Islamabad Policy Research Institute was actually deposited in the ‘secret fund’ by the then bosses of the Information Ministry for the purpose of distribution among its favourites journalists. The Ministry, however, refused to get the big amount audited on the pretext that the ‘secret fund’ could not be audited by any agency.

The News