Info group jinxed: Sorry state of affairs at Ministry of Information

  • PM Office shakes ministry after secretary’s choice; Info secretary says state minister doing a “fine job”

Since the departure of former federal minister Senator Pervez Rashid, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting is an utter mess and its affairs are being run by officers of the district management group (DMG) and the administrative service group who may know little or nothing about the affairs of the ministry.

Last year, Maryam Aurangzeb was appointed as the state minister for information following a ‘newsleaks’ scam, but she was not given full charge of the ministry. However, the deferment of promotions of the senior bureaucrats of the information group and the appointment of Shoaib Siddiqui, an officer of the administrative service group, has sent shockwaves among the top and mediocre cadres and the officers of the information group.

These officers look disenchanted, disillusioned and shattered as not only they are largely hit by the decision, they also feel their space is shrinking fast as the DMG officers and journalists have captured their postings. The lack of morale and esteem for the media management by the information group officers was reflective last week when the government’s media gurus miserably failed to handle a situation emerging following a scuffle between MNA Javed Latif of the ruling party and MNA Murad Saeed of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf.

With all its might, the government’s media machinery failed to launch any damage control measure, reflecting low morale and lack of will to act in time. In the past, the media managers especially people from the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting quite successfully managed much bigger challenges and managed the damage in the media. A recent decision taken by the PM Secretariat has shaken the Information Ministry as their senior-most officers have been ignored and a BS-22 grade officer from the Pakistan Administrative Service has been handed over the duties to serve as the information secretary on an acting charge basis.

The decision has been met with feelings of dissatisfaction by officers of the information group as highly-respected civil servants whose careers have spanned over three decades such as Rao Tehsin Ali and Sheraz Latif, both BS-21 grade officers, have been overlooked for the position of the information secretary. Moreover, the information group officers have also been deprived of prize postings like press secretary to the prime minister, PTV chairman, PEMRA chairman, APP managing director, Lok Virsa, PNCA, etc.

Another glaring mistake is the appointment of contractual employees against permanent postings in clear violation of the Supreme Court orders. Presently, contractual employees are running permanent posts in the information ministry like APP managing director, PNCA managing director, Lok Virsa managing director, etc. A government official told Pakistan Today that the officers of the district management and the administrative groups had smartly encircled the prime minister.

“Since the inception of this government, the DMG officers have in a planned manner created a ring around the prime minister. Since the information group professionals are trained to keep the prime minister aware of the developments, the DMG guys felt press secretary as a big hurdle and hence they got one of their colleagues Muhayuddin Wani as press secretary,” the official said.

“The DMG officers have virtually isolated the prime minister. They have also taken the media handling into their own hands. Since the departure of Mr Wani, the show is being run without a press secretary,” it said. “If this trend continues, the government may have to face the music as the government is set to face two major challenges – the Supreme Court judgment on Panama case and the investigation of ‘newsleaks.’ This media failure rings alarming bells for the government,” the official said.

Background interviews and interactions with senior officers of the information group have revealed that the officers stand demoralised, dejected and feel ignored as a result of the deferment of promotions of the information group officers and the appointment of DMG officer as the information secretary. Despite their crucial role in the governance, the information officers were suffering from a lack of morale due to some recent decisions taken by the PM Office, an officer of the ministry told Pakistan Today.

Several attempts were made to reach State Minister for Information Maryam Aurangzeb to get answers of the questions over the subject matter but she chose not to respond. When Pakistan Today sent a text message on her cell phone, she said that she was in a meeting and the questions might be sent to her through text messages. However, once the messages were sent through the text and Whatsapp, she did not respond either.

However, when asked why no press secretary to prime minister was appointed, the recently appointed Secretary Shoaib Siddiqui said that he would look into the matter. “I have recently been appointed and have no knowledge of the matter. I would look into it,” he said. Asked how a state minister was running the affairs of the ministry while under rules of business, only federal minister or prime minister can run the ministry, Siddiqui shied away from answering the query as to why there was no full-time minister for information.

However, Siddiqui showered praises on the state minister and said that she (Maryam) was competent enough to run the ministry and she was doing a “fine job.” He said that as secretary, he would make sure the rights and welfare of the officers of the ministry. Moreover, he said that the projection of the government’s efforts for welfare of the people at large would be his main focus and he would ensure that all organs of the ministry function well in a coordinated manner.