Stable in Presidency takes away job of a journalist -Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Paksitan Press Foundtion

Stable in Presidency takes away job of a journalist

By: Umar Cheema

ISLAMABAD: At a time when the media in the country is said to be free and independent, the official news agency, Associated Press of Pakistan (APP), has sacked a journalist for ‘irresponsible and unprofessional reporting’ after he reported the expenditure to be incurred on providing electricity for a horse-shed located in the Presidency.

The story was authentic as Capital Development Authority (CDA) had floated a tender inviting applications for provision of electric supply at the stable in the Presidency. The only crime of the reporter, Saleem Mumtaz Chaudhry, was to convert this tender notice into a news story that was surprisingly cleared by his bosses and published in some newspapers next day, inviting the wrath of the Presidency. Farhatullah Babar, spokesman for President Asif Ali Zardari, rang to the top notches of the Information Ministry, demanding an inquiry into the matter. Just a 30-minute inquiry on the same day resulted in a termination letter for the reporter.

“In exercise of power conferred by Section 18 of APPC Ordinance 2002 read with APPC Board of Directors’ Decision (Item No. 02) dated 17-12-2005, the contract services of Mr Saleem Mumtaz Chaudhry, Reporter/Sub-editor, Urdu News Service, APP, Islamabad are terminated with immediate effect under clause 4 of his appointment letter dated 19-06-2003 on account of irresponsible and unprofessional reporting as proved in the Inquiry Report dated 01-12-2011,” said the letter.

DG APP Rao Tehsin was reluctant to offer any comment when contacted by The News. When pressed again, he said he will ask somebody to call me and explain how it had been done but no call came later. He later did not pick up his phone.

APP sources, however, said the DG was under pressure and wanted to reinstate the journalist if he was asked by some higher authority. However, Farhatullah Babar, confirmed having complained on the publication of report. “Yes, I had complained. There is no doubt about it,” he said. But the spokesman explained that he did not suggest what action should be taken against the reporter. He said the report gave an impression that the stable was owned by President Zardari.

In fact the stable in the Presidency is of Pakistan Army, not President Asif Zardari, he explained. But the sacked reporter had not mentioned who owned the stable. He reported only what was mentioned in the tender notice that indicated the stable’s location in the ‘Presidency.’ “The CDA will spend Rs3.5 million for provision of electricity to horse-shed and other development schemes in the Presidency,” is what was reported by the sacked reporter.

In addition to these expenditures, the CDA has submitted PC-I of Rs261.685 million project for renovation and upgradation of President House’s kitchen to the Planning Commission for approval, reported an English daily.

An amount of Rs95.875 million has been recommended for installation of kitchen equipment for main kitchen pantry and Rs28.020 million for dismantling of existing structure and finishing work as per the new design, plumbing work, supply and installation of fire fighting equipment in the kitchen, said a report. “Similarly, a total of Rs27.07 million would be spent on electrification works while Rs110.73 million has been earmarked for contingencies, departmental charges, cost of project director and allied accessories, equipment installation charges and transport charges, etc.”

The Presidency’s spokesman has however denied this report too which was also based on CDA documents. The PM House, according to another report, is not behind in this race of making ruthless use of taxpayers’ money as the monthly expenditure of the House is Rs44.25 million and the Presidency’s monthly expenditure is Rs39 million.

Source: The News