The Afghan intelligence agency has accused Pakistani nationals working for Afghanistan’s leading TV channel of spying and influencing the country’s broadcast policy.
The spokesperson for Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security (NDS), Lutfullah Mashal, alleged that Pakistanis working in the Afghan media industry were using their professions as a cover-up for spying.
However, almost all independent channels and newspapers have snubbed the allegations leveled by Mashal, who is famous for a reportedly anti-Pakistan approach.
He accused the privately-owned Shamshad TV of hiring 14 Pakistani nationals, who he claimed were “preparing programmes and carrying out assignments”.
Shamshad TV is a predominantly Pashto channel with millions of viewers in and outside the country.
Mashal, who graduated from the University of Peshawar in 1994 with a masters degree in English literature, also criticised Zhwandoon TV, saying Pakistanis working for the company influenced much of its broadcasting.
Addressing a press conference in Kabul this week, Mashal accused the employees of spying on Afghanistan’s national security institutions. He added that they were formulating policies without the consent of the Afghan government.
A senior employee of Shamshad TV, rejecting the allegations and terming them ‘white lies,’ challenged the Afghan intelligence official to prove his claims.
Khapalwak Safi, head of broadcasting at Shamshad TV, said, “All Pakistanis working for the channel are in the information technology (IT) department. They are highly qualified professionals.”
Safi added that only 10% of the required technical and IT experts were available in Afghanistan, and the rest had to be hired from other countries. He maintained that no Pakistani employee was involved in programme planning.
“We cannot find enough IT professionals in Afghanistan, so we have no option but to hire people from abroad.”
He also dismissed Mashal’s claims of Pakistanis working in Afghan media organisations without informing the government. He said all the employees had the required documents and work permits from concerned Afghan departments, adding that they had been working in the country for years.
“The NDS spokesman must account for his irresponsible remarks to the judicial bodies,” Safi said.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 15th, 2012.