Bad media, bad governance pushing country to destruction
ISLAMABAD: In a strange twist of events taking place in the federal capital and the provincial capital of Punjab, a top officer of the Prime Minister’s Office was caught red-handed pressuring the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) and other authorities to stop action against a Rs20 million defaulter cable operator owned by a media group.
After the refusal of Pemra authorities, the officer managed to maneuver the Punjab government which withdrew the police right at the time when a raid was in progress putting the lives of accompanying Pemra officials in great danger.
A big cable operator of Lahore – Regal Star – indirectly owned by Sultan Ali Lakhani of the Express Media Group, is defaulter of around Rs20 million and was avoiding action because of its media links. Later, it got stay from the Lahore High Court (LHC) when Pemra officials tried to nab him. On Monday, when the LHC bench asked the lawyer of Regal Star to argue merits of the case, he simply withdrew the case and thus the stay order was vacated.
On Tuesday, Pemra took the Punjab Police into confidence and decided to raid and confiscate the equipment of one of biggest defaulters of the authority. However, suddenly, a senior DMG officer and member of Prime Minister’s media team, Mohyddin Ahmad Wani, started pressurising the Pemra authorities not to take action against the powerful cable operator indirectly owned by the Lakhanis. Wani was quoted as telling the Pemra people and other authorities that relations of Express Media Group with the PML-N government are getting better now and that Lakhani will be meeting the prime minister soon. On the basis of these improving relations, Wani ordered officials not to take action again one of the biggest defaulters.
However, Pemra officials maintained that it was a decision of the Pemra Council of Complaints (Punjab) and was properly endorsed by the Pmera, so action couldn’t be stopped as even the LHC had also withdrawn the stay.
According to credible sources, after this Wani utilising his other resources spoke to some ministers and top officials in the Punjab. Meanwhile, a Pemra team raided the defaulter along with a police team headed by DSP Kashif Jalil and confiscated the equipment of the cable operator. According to police sources present in the raid, SP Model Town Syed Baqar Raza called the DSP and asked him to immediately return the ceased equipment to the cable operator and asked the Pemra officials to leave the place as soon as possible. On this, the DSP not only returned the confiscated equipment but also asked the Pemra official in a derogatory tone to leave the venue. “Please go from here immediately and don’t even look back,” the DSP was quoted as telling the Pemra officials. When approached by The News, Kashif Jalil attended the call but did not answer The News questions. The SP Model Town Syed Baqar Raza was also approached by The News and he denied passing any such orders. However, police sources confirmed that Syed Baqar Raza passed the orders after receiving a call from CCPO Capt Ameen Wains and CCPO gave the orders after receiving instructions from the CM Secretariat. Information was cross checked from the CM Secretariat sources who confirmed it.
Mohyddin Ahmad Wani, while talking to The News, first said that he never spoke to chairman Pemra. Later when details were presented before him, he admitted that he spoke to the chairman Pemra just to ask about the whole issue which was his right. “The chairman Pemra informed me of the legal position and I became quiet as he is my senior,” Wani said, “I have spoken to a minister and then not contacted anyone else as it was legally wrong and the Pemra position was correct.”
Mohyddin Ahmad Wani insisted that he hasn’t contacted any other official. All this left Pemra officials involved in the operation in danger. Sources confided to The News that some Pemra officers had informed the chairman Pemra not take action against such a powerful cable operator as he was involved in conniving with some powerful people and teaching the Pemra staff a lesson some months back. However, the Pemra chairman did not listen to them and ordered them to act in accordance with law. All the Pemra officers who were part of the exercise fear on basis of past incidents that they can be eliminated any time now. Pemra had even moved an application under 33(3) of Pemra Ordinance in Model Town Police Station against the illegal system of the Regal Star Cable Network.
Not only Lahore officers of Pemra but the authority’s officials across the country were of the view that Pemra has lost its writ on Tuesday and after humiliation at the hands of the police in Lahore, no officer will ever go in the field for implementation of law.
Under the law, no media house can run business of cable distribution networks. However, the Express Media Group not only holds 23 licenses in the names of different people (only four of these 23 are operational and Pemra is unable to take any action) but it also runs a front company which gives different facilities to cable operators and has bought channel number positions from them. Under the agreement, many cable operators are bound to air any channel on the position as directed by the Lakhanis. All TV channels, distribution and advertising companies and even Pemra are aware of the situation but all are mysteriously silent.
During the PPP regime, a favourite officer re-validated a dormant CTV licence of B-1 category (Intel Communications) and later changed its management. The same was later unbelievably upgraded in category B-10 by the name of Regal Star with entire Lahore as its area of operation. This licence expired in 2012 after default of more than Rs17 million. The Regal Star management took a stay order from the LHC and kept on delaying the case hearing for around two years. Finally, when the judge strictly ordered to argue on merit of the case, the lawyer voluntarily withdrew the case.