The ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government spent an estimated Rs450 million from national exchequer on the advertisement in an effort to run its media campaign to counter months-long sit-ins staged by the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and the Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) last year.
The ‘popular idea’ was floated by the PML-N media managers during the dharnas when PTI chairman Imran Khan and PAT chief Tahirul Qadri with the help of their supporters wanted to topple the incumbent government last year.
The prime minister’s office, without observing any rules, asked the finance ministry to release Rs450 million for around 62 projects but spent it on private media campaign (print and electronic), revealed the documents exclusively obtained by The Express Tribune.
The popular campaigns ran with public money including ‘go ka matlab’, ‘riyasat par dhawa’, political stability, ‘PTV par hamla’, testimonials and ‘qaum ki awaz’. These were mainly the packages aired on private television channels to assuage and gratify the audiences from participating in the sit-ins and “exposing hidden agendas” as Minister for Information and Broadcasting Pervaiz Rashid used to say while appearing in press conferences.
The total amount released for the electronic advertisements is Rs428 million.
The highest amount of Rs59.3 million was spent on November 29 about the August 29, 2014 attack on Parliament when workers of both the parties stormed the Parliament House’s outer fence.
The videos duration ranged from one to five minutes about claims of Imran Khan and Tahirul Qadri coupled with their workers attack on the government buildings on the Constitution Avenue and the alleged damage to the economy.
The first of its campaign on electronic media was aired on August 13 last year when PTI-PAT started their long-march from Lahore. The government placed ads of Rs11 million in the name of creating “public awareness”.
For print media, Rs19 million were released for ads about attack on PTV, parliament and “curse of sit-in”.
The advertisements were released through prime advertising agencies like Midas Communications, Interlink, Adgroup etc.
Interestingly, the three summaries approved of 62 campaigns during the last year only two advertisement campaigns were related to the education sector. One is PM’s fee reimbursement scheme for students of under-developed areas and PM laptop scheme. A campaign last year “11 months achievements of federal government” was broadcast from May 7 to 11 at a cost of Rs54 million.
Pakistan Peoples Party senator Farhatullah Babar said if the figures are true then he strongly condemns the spending of public money for political purposes and will raise this issue before the Senate Standing Committee on Information and Broadcasting. “We will call for the audit of the expenditure,” he added.
Awami National Party’s former senator Afrasiab Khattak blamed both the government and PTI for waste of public money on such issues.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 17th, 2015.