Fawad, Arshad trade barbs in Senate committee meeting


–Senate body refers Kohistan video scandal to anti-terrorism court, recommends formation of JIT

ISLAMABAD: The ongoing spat between Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Fawad Chaudhry and Pakistan Television (PTV) Managing Director (MD) Arshad Khan took an ugly turn on Monday as the two traded barbs during a meeting of the Senate Standing Committee on Human Rights.

While the committee, chaired by Senator Jehanzeb Jamaldini, took up the matter of pending salaries and pensions of PTV employees, Fawad lashed out at Arshad and accused him of misuse of authority and funds of the state broadcaster. He alleged that the PTV MD had relations with influential people and he was using his connections to his benefit. The minister also claimed that his subordinate was more powerful than him as he was often found in the Prime Minister’s Office.

Fawad also accused the PTV MD of hiring two of his friends on hefty salaries of Rs3 million. He said that this move was unjustified while the state broadcaster was suffering heavy losses and was undergoing a deficit of Rs5.8 billion. He added that Arshad himself was drawing a hefty salary.

Fawad further said that he had requested the prime minister to fire the PTV MD who had become a hurdle in the smooth functioning of the state broadcaster.

Arshad responded with strong words. He said that he respects the minister and asked him not to twist facts. He said that he had served as the MD of the state broadcaster thrice under various governments. “I am a professional and am only answerable for my job,” he said, adding that he had not issued any directives to stop the flow of salaries and pensions of employees. “The information minister is using the matter to settle personal scores,” he alleged.

He also said that the state broadcaster had to pay the liabilities of various organisations which amounted to Rs6 billion and he was trying to make this payment by June. “The minister cannot fire me. He should clarify why he is targeting me,” he said.

The meeting also brought up for discussion the Kohistan video scandal which had claimed the lives of around nine people while the accused were still at large. The committee decided to send the matter to an anti-terrorism court and directed the government to provide security to civil society activist Farzana Bari who actively pursuing the matter. The meeting was also attended by the paternal uncle of late Afzal Khan, the youth who had raised the issue of killing of five girls by a jirga in Kohistan.

Farzana Bari told the committee that the government had failed to resolve the case after a lapse of seven years and not only was Afzal murdered but three of his brothers had also been killed. She said that along with Afzal’s family members, she was also being threatened.

The committee also recommended the formation of a joint investigation team (JIT) to probe the matter.