Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry on Monday welcomed an unusual visitor in his office to discuss the issues currently faced by state-run Pakistan Television (PTV): his predecessor from the archrival PMLN, Marriyum Aurangzeb.
Former information minister Aurangzeb met Chaudhry in his chamber inside Parliament House on his invitation to discuss the PTV crisis.
Sources close to the meeting told that Chaudhry and his PMLN counterpart discussed issues relating to the appointment of PTV Managing Director Arshad Khan, whose appointment the incumbent information minister has opposed.
Aurangzeb too was of the opinion that Khan was appointed in an illegal manner, and Chaudhry supported her stance.
Chaudhry also asked Aurangzeb how she had tackled matters concerning Ataul Haq Qasmi, a former PTV MD whose appointment was declared illegal by the Supreme Court last year, the sources added.
The PML-N spokesperson asked the information minister to take steps to immediately resolve the problems being faced by PTV employees and pensioners. Chaudhry assured her that the employees’ issues would be taken care of soon.
In a statement, Aurangzeb said she had in the meeting drawn Chaudhry’s attention towards a delay in the implementation of the film and cultural policy.
She said she also discussed the progress regarding the formation of a commission about the right of access to information, adding that she had reassured the minister regarding the opposition’s cooperation to resolve all issues.
She stressed that the information ministry should bring the matter regarding the formation of the Pakistan Media Regulatory Authority (PMRA) to the National Assembly Standing Committee on Information.
The ongoing tussle among media managers of the government over the appointment of the PTV MD had taken a new turn on Sunday, with Chaudhry offering that Prime Minister Khan change his ministry.
The minister had refuted reports about his resignation but said he was ready for a change of portfolio if he could not work independently.
Sources said on Monday that Prime Minister Imran Khan has called Chaudhry for a meeting on Tuesday at 3pm. The two are expected to discuss the information minister’s reservations regarding the PTV management.
Divisions and rifts within the media team of the government had surfaced last week when Chaudhry during a visit to PTV Centre said some special assistants and advisers to the prime minister were backing the incumbent MD, who was taking a huge salary package despite the financial crisis the PTV was facing.
The minister said the bleak financial condition of the PTV was clear to everybody and they were unable to pay even monthly pensions amounting to a few thousand rupees to former employees, but at the same time, a senior person was netting more than Rs2.5 million per month, which was “unfair”.
His comments had come in the backdrop of PTV employees’ protest against measures taken by the broadcaster’s management to contain what the latter termed misuse of medical bills in the corporation.
While the minister did not name any of the special assistants or advisers to the prime minister who he said were backing the PTV MD, his remarks were not welcomed by some senior members of the ruling party.
Special Assistant to the PM on Political Affairs with the status of minister of state, Naeemul Haque, tweeted apparently in response to the information minister’s remarks: “The prime minister has full confidence in the Board of PTV and its management and believes PTV should be an independent organisation like BBC and the government will take all steps necessary towards that end.”