‘New media policy needed for normal ties with India’
By Shahzad Raza
ISLAMABAD: The Committee on Media Affairs, formed by the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid-e-Azam (PML-QA), will hold its first meeting on Tuesday in a bid to devise a comprehensive media strategy ahead of the expected Indo-Pak talks.
“A media policy will be drafted to create a congenial atmosphere for the success of the expected Pak-India dialogue. The friendly media policy will contribute in normalising relations with India,” chairman of the committee, Syed Kabir Ali Wasti, told Daily Times.
Opposing a series of anti-India news in the national media, he expressed his reservations on the hawkish statements and twisting of facts from both sides of the border.
“We have to accept the reality. I am sick of listening to baseless slogans of our historic stance on Kashmir. A historic stance means nothing in a nation’s life since national interests keep changing with circumstances,” said Mr Wasti.
He said the media policy would focus on the liberalisation of media, giving maximum importance to the freedom of press.
Sources expect fireworks during the first meeting, as most members of the committee hold varying views on sensitive subjects. Interestingly, the ruling party did not appoint anyone for the post of secretary information ever since Ms Abida Hussain resigned. According to party sources, however, she rarely visited her office and, in her absence, Mr Azeem Chaudhry looked after the media relations.
He detached himself from media affairs after assuming the office of the organising secretary of the party.
Sources also claim that senior leaders of the PML-QA, who were interested in their self-projection, were least bothered about forming a strong media team for the party. They say that the party had fought the October elections without a pre-planned media campaign.
Headed by Mr Wasti, the committee comprises former information minister, Mushahid Hussain, advisor to the prime minister, Nelofar Bakhtiar, former information minister, Nisar Memon, federal information minister, Sheikh Rashid, federal minister for labour and overseas Pakistanis, Abdus Sattar Lalika, Azad bin Haider, Azeem Chaudary, Yaqoot Jamil, Raheela Yahya and Abida Hussain.
Sources say the PML-QA leaders, who admit the failure of official media managers at controlling the flow of critical news in national and international press and promoting the government’s viewpoint in a convincing manner, are likely give a tough time to the federal information minister during the meeting.
They believe the minister is expected to bear criticism from most members of the committee, “who still consider him an outsider”. It is worth mentioning that the federal information minister, Sheikh Rashid, who contested general elections as an independent candidate, joined the PML-QA after wining two seats.
One of the constituencies from where he won was NA-56. Mrs Nelofar Bakhtiar was also fighting the elections from the same area. Later, Mr Rashid’s nephew contested the elections from there but was defeated by Haneef Abbasi of the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA).
Mrs Bakhtiar has always claimed that Mr Rashid had employed illegal means to win the elections. Sources expect her to potently criticise the government’s media policy.
Meanwhile, Mrs Bakhtiar is likely to come under fire from Mrs Yaqoot Jameel’s side. Mrs Jameel is, reportedly, playing a significant role for the anti-Nelofar group within the party. In fact, she had thought of contesting the intra-party elections against Mrs Bakhtiar, but was stopped by Chaudhary Shujaat.
The chairman of the committee is also considered a controversial figure. Mr Wasti is viewed as an outsider by top leaders of the party who, after merging his group with the PML-QA, tried to remain in the forefront of the party’s public and private meetings. Sources say he had personally requested the party president for this post to improve his relations with the press.
Sources also add that the two former information ministers, eyeing cabinet portfolios, will not utter strong words during the meeting to serve their own interests. The other participants, they believe, will strongly criticise the government and the party for defective media policies.