Senate Standing Committee on Information, Broadcasting, National History and Literary Heritage in its meeting was told that 439 million has been paid to PTV pensioners as commutation after the Committee’s persistent directions since May last year. Out of the remaining 1.9 billion, an amount of around 600 million will be taken out of investments and will be paid to pensioners as early as the Board of Directors approve. The Committee was assured that PTV administration will be at its best to pay the 600 million to pensioners by 30th May. Chairman Committee Senator Faisal Javed Khan after assuming charge as head of this committee pursued the matter which has from an administrative negligence become a human rights issue. The Committee assured the pensioners that the issue will stay on the agenda until every single pensioner is provided relief and due right.
The meeting was held under the chairmanship of Senator Faisal Javed here at the Parliament Lodges on Thursday and was attended among others by Senators Sajjad Turi, Mushtaq Ahmed, Khushbakht Shujaat, Maula Bakhsh Chandio, Pervaiz Rasheed, Anwar ul Haq Kakar, Federal Minister for National History and Literary Heritage Shafqat Mehmood, Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Information, Broadcasting Dr. Firdous Ashiq Awan, Secretary Information, Broadcasting Shafqat Jalil, Chairman PEMRA, Chairman NLPD Iftikhar Arif, and officials from the ministry.
The Minister for National History and Literary Heritage told the meeting that under the austerity measures of the government there was a proposal to merge or limit some departments who have little work. In this regard, National Language Promotion Department, Urdu Science Board, Urdu Dictionary Board were recommended to be merged but the National History and Literary Heritage division, considering the different locations, different work scope and concerns relating to employees, has opposed the proposal and hence the issue is not under process.
While discussing the issue of promoting Urdu language and the deteriorating standards Chairman Committee observed that there is a need to have institutes that promote and produce literature in Urdu and encourage people to study and use them. He also proposed producing a mobile phone application for providing learning opportunities digitally. The minister told the meeting that a dictionary application has already been introduced to which the Committee chairman recommended publicising it through media especially PTV.
The Committee also discussed the steps taken by the government to preserve the National Heritage in the country. The Committee was told by the minister that not all of the heritage sites in the country are now with the federal government but the federal government is carrying out an overarching exercise to map all the heritage sites in the country belonging to all religions and civilisations and soon an inventory will be produced providing information on all the sites. The Committee expressed concerns over the dilapidated conditions of many heritage sites and valuable antique artefacts being sold in open market.
Regarding payment of advertisement money to media houses the Committee was told by the Special Assistant that the pending money to electronic and print media for advertisements issued in previous government has been reconciled and will be paid in tranches in consultation with the Finance Division. The Committee appreciated the step by the government and expressed hope that there will be a permanent solution to the issue and will be a guarantee to salary payment and job securities of journalists. The Committee also directed that those private media employees who are needier should be prioritised and those media houses be also identified who are paying salaries and who are not and what are their revenue positions. As a long term solution the Committee Chairman proposed to work on legislation to settle the service structure and job security for private media journalists.
The Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Information, Broadcasting told the meeting that 1.9 billion of advertisements of ministry of information in this government have been paid and there has been no pendency, however, backlog of advertisements given in previous government are pending. She said that the amount was huge and needed to be reconciled. The amount of advertisements of previous Punjab government has been reconciled at 570 million and that of previous federal government at 1.10 billion. She said that the government is cognizant of the fact that the burden is coming to the employees who are not being paid and are being laid off. Committee Chairman Senator Faisal Javed remarked that the issue needs to be seen holistically so that the real causes of delay in salary payments be explored. The Special Assistant said that 85% of advertisement revenue in the country comes from the private sector and only 15% by government sector and consequently the brunt of lack of payment by government should not result in non-payment of salaries. Representatives of Parliamentary Reporters Association expressed hope that employees will be given same importance as the media houses owners, a permanent solution will emerge through some service rules and payments to employees will be made before Eid.
The Special Assistant told the meeting that a process for appointment of MD PTV had been initiated before she assumed charge and the same has been carried forward and waaits approval of Prime Minister. The Committee observed that special care needs to be taken while making appointment of someone who can generate revenue and introduce reforms.
During a briefing on working and performance of Lok Virsa, it was told that the post of Executive Director is lying vacant for the last one year and against the sanctioned strength of 106 employees, only 52 are currently employed.