Firdous urges media to counter India's IOK propaganda

Information SAPM says PTI government believes in ‘complete media freedom’


Rizwan Ghilzai August 18, 2019
Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Information and Broadcasting Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan addressing a special ceremony in Islamabad to launch one-year performance report of PTI government. PHOTO: APP

ISLAMABAD: Both the print and electronic media should collectively project the national narrative on the Kashmir issue in order to counter Indian propaganda, urged Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Information and Broadcasting Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan during a ceremony held to commemorate the completion of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf's (PTI) first year in power.

Addressing the one-year performance ceremony at the Prime Minister Secretariat on Sunday, Dr Firdous said raising the voice for the oppressed people of Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK) was the government's priority and the same was expected from newspapers and news channels.

"Indian media has launched a negative propaganda campaign against Pakistan while projecting the fascist Narendra Modi as a national hero," said the PM's special assistant.

The Pakistani media must unitedly counter the fake Indian narrative and highlight the Kashmir cause, she added.

She said the PTI government believed in complete media freedom as it played an imperative role as eyes and ears of society. The prime minister had always been vocal about the press freedom and his government was determined to facilitate the media at every step.

"The government inherited Pakistan Railways in deficit and took measures to make it a profitable organisation," said the PM's special assistant.

Similarly, the PTI government inherited circular debt of Rs1,200 billion, she said, adding that the Ministry of Power took steps for improving electricity transmission and the overall system.



Ministry of Information

Firdous said modern and new structural reforms had been introduced in all the institutions, including Pakistan Television (PTV), Associated Press of Pakistan (APP), Press Information Department  (PID), Publicity Wings and Radio Pakistan.

She said, "The PTV has been transformed into an autonomous body in contrast to the past years when it was used as a parking station for a few journalists' personal agendas, who were also being paid heavy packages.

"The PTV has become a profitable organisation after being faced with immense financial crisis."

Regarding APP, Firdous said the government was determined to transform the news agency into a modern organisation having collaboration with its international counterparts.

"We are also upgrading APP's Video News Service (VNS) to make it compatible with international services for promoting a soft and moderate image of Pakistan," she added.

Likewise, she said, Radio Pakistan and PID were also adopting modern techniques as per new structural agendas that had been devised by the ministry.

"For PID, we are bringing a new advertisement policy and online system while the central media list for advertisements is also being revised," she added.

"The government has introduced structural reforms in the External Publicity (EP) Wing to keep the Pakistani diaspora abroad updated about the country's affairs and to improve our press counselors' performance abroad. The EP Wing will be aiming to create a platform which will enable foreign journalists to witness Pakistan's positive side, our cultural heritage and developmental projects."

She thanked all the senior journalists and media owners for their support and appreciation for promoting unity and harmony on different issues especially in light of recent happenings in the occupied Kashmir.

Firdous said the prime minister had reviewed the performance of every ministry and took steps for their restructuring. He defined the policies of the ministries and initiated steps to make them people-friendly in order to resolve problems and fortify their role in the prosperity of Pakistan, she added.

She said the information ministry was empowered according to the requirements of the present age. Steps were taken for capacity building of departments working under the ministry. A Social Media Wing, she said, was set up in the ministry to connect with the electronic and print media for disseminating news to the public. An interim wage board for journalists was announced and soon permanent award would be announced, she said, adding that the prime minister had directed for clearance of dues of media houses on account of advertisements.

"All the pending liabilities of media houses will be cleared in coming months," said the special assistant. "A new advertisement policy will be announced and affairs of the advertisement section of PID will be streamlined to the satisfaction of the media owners."

Ehsaas programme

"The programme, which is close to the heart of the prime minister, is meant to create an equitable society," said Firdous.

Some Rs152 billion was allocated during the current year for it, which would be connected with other programmes like Sehat Card, interest free loans, internships for youth and schemes for the empowerment of women in rural areas, she added.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Dr Firdous said the foreign affairs ministry in its successful role countered all conspiracies of India and after five decades the Kashmir issue was taken up at the forum of the United Nations Security Council.

"India failed to stop the UNSC's meeting on Kashmir and now a focal group has been set up at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to make effort for further open debate on Kashmir during the next session of the UN Security Council," said Firdous.

She thanked the leadership of opposition parties for strengthening the national narrative on Kashmir.

The special assistant said historic reforms were initiated in Madrassas under the National Action Plan. The PTI government showed courage on the issue unlike the previous regimes.

Appointment of judges

Firdous said the PTI government appointed 29 judges of special courts and nine members of tribunals for speedy justice during its first year. According to the party's first-year report, the government established Special Court Gujranwala for better access to justice while the proposal for establishing more courts and tribunals was also under consideration. Approximately, 600 cases referred by different government organisations for legal opinion were disposed of in public interest by the Ministry of Law and Justice.

Disposal of such a huge number of cases while maintaining the qualitative aspect was unprecedented in the history of the law ministry, the report said.

Ministry of Overseas Pakistanis

The PTI government has helped release around 2,612 Pakistani prisoners, languishing in the Middle East countries' prisons on petty crimes, by extending financial and legal assistance.

"When the PTI government came to power, there were some 6,880 Pakistanis serving various jail terms in seven countries of the Middle East and now after the passage of one year, it has made sure the release of 2,612 which constitutes over 37 per cent of the total prisoners," according to the report.

It stated that 1,245 prisoners were released from Saudi Arabia, 1,200 from the United Arab Emirates, 67 from Qatar, 55 from Oman, 18 from Kuwait , 17 from Bahrain and 10 from Iraq.

The overseas ministry had arranged the repatriation of 320 passengers from Malaysia stranded in camps, 1,600 passengers from Thailand who were stuck up there due to airspace closure in recent past, 28 drivers from Iraq and more than five trafficked children to Middle East for immoral purposes.

Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation

With an aim to promote tourism in the country, Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation (PTDC) is moving forward briskly on materialising creation of an endowment fund worth Rs1 billion.

"An endowment fund titled 'Pakistan Tourism Development Endowment Fund' (PTDEF) has been created with seed money of Rs1 billion to promote tourism across the country," said PTDC Managing Director Syed Intikhab Alam.

The government set up the endowment fund to execute its marketing plans for promotion of the country's unexplored scenic sites and tourist resorts at local and international level. "The PTDEF will be formally launched shortly as rules for its operation and management had been sent to the Finance and Law Division for vetting," said Intikhab, highlighting the PTI government's one-year performance in the tourism sector.

The government, Intikhab said, had also constituted the National Tourism Coordination Board (NTCB) to enhance liaison between federation and provinces, besides taking all necessary steps to turn Pakistan into a world class tourist destination.

A Buddhist trail was also being developed in order to promote religious tourism in Pakistan, he said, adding that the country had managed to attract foreign investment of 500 million pounds for revamping religious sites of Skihs.

He said no developmental activity was undertaken by the PTDC since 2010; however, this year the government accommodated PTDC in the Federal Public Service Development Programme by allocating Rs200 million. He said Rs40 million was allocated for conducting feasibility study of Aiwan-e-Sayahat in Islamabad while Rs160 million would be spent on promotion of tourism in the federal capital.

Board of Investment

The Board of Investment (BOI) in a record time of one-year approved 11 special economic zones (SEZs) and improved Pakistan's global ease of doing business raking from 147th in 2018 to 136th in 2019, stated the one-year performance report.

The board, it mentioned, had held the fourth meeting of the Board of Approvals, headed by the prime minister, which granted approval to the first China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) SEZ at Rashakai, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. In the same meeting, firm approval of five SEZs in Punjab, processed by BOI, was given along with the approval in principle of two SEZs in Balochistan, two SEZs in Punjab and one SEZ in Sindh, which would be notified after completing codal formalities, it added.

In order make the property registration process convenient, the processing time was being reduced from 208 to 17 days in Karachi, from 26 to 11 days in Lahore.

An online system had been introduced for payments of taxes, social security and pension contributions.

A well-knitted system for trading across borders-Web Based One Customs (WeBOC) platform was integrated with key departments which had considerably reduced time.

The BoI had also started contract enforcement and established out of court settlement systems in Lahore and introduced court automation and case management systems.

It had also started Pakistan Regulatory Modernisation Initiative to map all regulatory requirements, permits, licenses and permissions/NOCs required at all levels of Government in setting up and running a business in various key sectors, so as to conduct the business process review and introduce requisite reforms to facilitate business enterprises.

Federal Board of Revenue

The Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) has increased 60 per cent collection of (Inland Revenue) IR Domestic Taxes.

The FBR while broadening the tax base (Inland Revenue Policy) had achieved 99.2 per cent target of tax collection during the month of July 2019 by the IR Operations Wing, which was Rs234 billion against the assigned target of Rs236 billion, according to the report.

The filing of returns of income for tax year 2018 had reached 2.4 million as compared to 1.4 million returns filed for the tax year 2017, indicating a growth of 62 per cent.

During fiscal year 2018-19, the number of new tax payers who filed returns of income was 348,140 as compared to 146,096 filed during 2017-18, registering an increase of 137 per cent.

"In July 2019, the collection of sales tax is Rs123.4 billion which is 26.4 per cent higher than the collection of sales tax in July 2018, which was Rs97.6 billion. Similarly, the Federal Excise Duty (FED) collection in July 2019 is 20 per cent higher than the collection in July 2018," it added.

However, the tax collected under income tax (other than Amnesty) in July 2019 was Rs 85.2 billion which was 42 per cent higher than the collection in July 2018.

During last one year, 6,451 high net worth cases were identified on the basis of economic transactions.

National Youth Development Framework

The PTI government has prepared a National Youth Development Framework (NYDF) to empower the youth socially, economically and politically.

According to the report, Pakistan is the second youngest country in Asia with around 68 per cent of its population below the age of 30 years.

The PTI government, at its very outset, held extensive rounds of consultations with all the provincial/regional stakeholders, besides international experts on youth development and prepared a vision document, titled 'National Youth Development Framework' (NYDF) for steering different initiatives aimed at socio-economic development of youth.

It is based on following six thematic areas: Mainstreaming Marginalised Youth, Employment and Economic Empowerment, Civic Engagement, Social Protection, Health and Well-being, and Youth-Focused Institutional Reforms.

In the light of NYDF, for the first time in Pakistan, the PTI government notified a 33-member "National Youth Council (NYC)", comprising outstanding young leaders of country in different sectors, including entertainment, NGOs, IT, sports, private sector, and madrassas.

The NYC also includes provincial youth ministers and officials responsible for formulating and executing youth policies.

To implement various initiatives for the socio-economic development of youth, the government launched the Prime Minister's Kamyab Jawan Programme, which has a vast array of projects and initiatives in education, skill training, entrepreneurship, and civic engagement.

With additional input from APP

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