Almost a year after a crushing defeat in May 2013 elections, former PML-N member National Assembly Hanif Abbasi has found a reason to grab public and media attention, yet again.
After he was appointed as chairman of a sub-committee for the metro bus project by the Punjab government, he has resorted to publicity tactics by putting up a plethora of banners across the city inscribed with words full of praise for PML-N party leaders for initiating a public transport project for the capital city.
The capital city had already been disfigured after several roads were dug up to make way for the metro bus, when Abbasi decided to do his bit.
The former MNA has neither sought permission from the Capital Development Agency (CDA) nor paid a single penny before embarking on a publicity campaign, said a source at the CDA.
The civic agency has certain rules for allocating space for advertising and it also charges a significant amount from advertisers or publicity seekers for defacing the capital with banners.
Major thoroughfares and even electricity pylons have been festooned with banners carrying pictures of the prime minister and the Punjab chief minister, while the banners also carry Abbasi’s name and picture at the bottom as the sponsor.
A senior official at the CDA directorate of municipal administration said, “The question of paying a fee for the drive is of lesser importance, no one even bothered to obtain permission for it”.
“It’s mandatory for an advertiser to take formal permission from the CDA before displaying banners, posters or any other means of advertisement under municipal laws,” said the official.
It has been four days since the banners sprung up along the city’s roads, but no one from the CDA has dared to remove them.
A CDA official offered a meaningful smile in reply when he was asked why the authority was reluctant to remove them, but that might change with legislators taking up the issue.
Abbasi believes paying for the publicity campaign is a novel idea. When contacted, he said the banners were of a political nature and meant to thank the PML-N leadership on behalf of the capital’s residents, but he did not explain how he came to represent their aspirations.
“I am not advertising my business through these banners,” he replied curtly.
When he was reminded that it was mandatory to seek formal permission from the CDA and pay a fee, he said all political parties put up banners and streamers all the time.
He gave the example of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), which had carried out a massive campaign ahead of its May 11 gathering at D Chowk. If Imran Khan paid the CDA for using its space in Islamabad, I am ready to pay.”
When CDA officials were contacted to ascertain if the PTI had paid for the banners, a senior official said not a single penny was paid by the party.
On Wednesday, the issue was also discussed at a Senate sub-committee meeting. Senator Dr Saeeda Iqbal drew the attention of legislators towards political banners springing up across the city, saying, “It seems the CDA has handed over the management of Islamabad to the Rawalpindi Development Authority and politicians from Rawalpindi.” The senator asked the CDA to remove the banners.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 24th, 2014.
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