Cable operator illegally owned by media group dodges Pemra law
ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) has disclosed that keeping aside all political pressures, it finally raided country’s biggest defaulter cable operator following Lahore High Court (LHC) orders, when it came to know that the illegal operator has already shifted most of its equipment to another cable business with a different name for which it had obtained licence while “purchasing” licences in bulk.
It is a trend in Pakistan that powerful and influential businessmen obtained huge loans from banks in name of a business, invest the loan money in some other business and show the business registered with bank as going in loss and finally get their loans written off. This is not a practice merely to obtain loans.
A media house has illegally obtained licences for cable distribution networks in bulk during previous regime. It illegally operates a cable network, violates laws and rules, even defaults on government dues and when Pemra starts action again that cable business, it takes issue to the court and try to keep it pending for years. Then finally when even courts decide against it, it transfers whole technical equipment of cable distribution system and investment to other cable business with another name for which it already has many licences obviously closing the previous defaulting fraudulent illegal cable business.
If the media group doesn’t do so, it can’t compete with other channels by presenting good and quality content. It tries to control other channels by running cable distribution networks. Hence, it can also disturb signal and position of other standard and professional media channels. The media group is known to use many tricks to outdo other channels instead of improving quality of its work and content.
Big businesses groups which started media business during last two regimes to gain more power and to blackmail authorities are playing havoc with Pakistan. On the other hand, provincial governments and police forces are also dancing to their tunes.
Regal Star Cable Network was one of the leading cable operators in a city like Lahore and it was indirectly owned by the Media Group. It operated illegally and mostly did not pay government dues. When its default crossed all limits, Pemra started serving it show-causes notices four years back. The operator always refused to pay because of its might and relations its owners have in political circles. At one stage, the illegal cable business took the issue to the LHC to keep things in pending. However, LHC gave decision against it. Pemra again started proceedings against it, and Pemra Council of Complaints (CoC) recommended action against the operator, a decision which was also approved by the Pemra higher authorities. Pemra raided the cable operator office six months back but Punjab Police suddenly helped illegal cable operator due to intervention and support of some political and bureaucratic bosses of Punjab. To keep things in pendency and in fact to complete some secret operations, the operator again went into appeal against earlier LHC decision. Obviously, with the passage of time, it became the biggest defaulting and illegally operating cable operator of the country with defaulted amount running into tens of millions of ruppees. The LHC even rejected its appeal and ordered Pemra to take action.
Under Pemra law, police force of all provinces is bound to assist Pemra for performance of its regulatory duties. After LHC clear orders, Pemra officially approached Punjab Police and asked it for assistance. However, despite LHC orders, Punjab Police high-ups straightforwardly refused to assist police.
After straight refusal of the police, Pemra officials raided the cable business office in Faisal Town Lahore on Friday and sealed the office and confiscated some equipment. Pemra then came to know that the biggest defaulter cable operator has already shifted most of its equipment to other cable networks for which its owners already have obtained some 21 licences during the PPP regime. It was shocking for Pemra that after defaulting on such a huge amount, the operator has simply shifted the equipment and whole investment to new name and now this old business was closed after making huge money from Lahore market. Pemra decided in principle that action will be taken against new names and whole equipment used by Regal Star will be recovered and LHC orders will be implemented in letter and spirit. Pemra law will be strictly implemented. But, Pemra faces severe political and bureaucratic pressures to proceed under the law.
Action against the illegal cable operator proved a nightmare for Pemra officials. A Punjab Police team tried to take three top Pmera officers with it on account of raiding the powerful cable operator of the city. Pemra officers got united and took head-office on board and refused to be arrested by raiding Punjab Police party. Later SHO of Faisal Town Police Station called senior Pmera Lahore official Hafiz Jamil and informed him that after an application from the Regal Star Cable Network, he was initiating legal action against Pemra officials for entering premises of office of cable business.
No worst example of making mockery of law and superior judiciary orders could be witnessed in recent months as this one by Punjab Police where the police force was openly standing with criminal elements of the society. The Punjab Police not only threatened a government regulator of terrible consequences for trying to implement law against the powerful but also physically raided and entered the PEMRA offices. The News made hectic efforts to take version of SHO of concerned police station, DSP and SSP and sent many messages to them but no one was ready to speak on this issue.