Pemra crackdown on Indian DTH, airing of excessive foreign content

ISLAMABAD: With the Pakistani DTH (direct-to-home) service set to be introduced in the coming months, the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) announced on Wednesday that it would launch a crackdown on the illegal Indian DTH and airing of excessive foreign content by TV channels and cable operators.

“Adequate time is being given to the cable operators and satellite channels to adjust their timings as per the legal requirements. Otherwise, punitive action will be taken against the two important segments from Oct 15,” Pemra chairman Absar Alam said at a press conference at the authority’s headquarters.

However, he added, action against the dealers of Indian DTH would be launched with immediate effect.

The decision was taken at a meeting of the Pemra board held recently.

Mr Alam said Pemra would write letters to the Federal Board of Revenue, the State Bank and agencies, including the Federal Investigation Agency, for curbing the sale of Indian DTH decoders in the country.

“Around three million Indian DTH decoders are being sold in the country. We not only want this sale stopped but will also ask the relevant agencies to trace the money trail to determine the mode of payments made to Indian dealers selling these decoders to Pakistanis,” he said.

Mr Alam said all stakeholders, including cable operators and the Pakistan Broadcasters Association, had been forewarned that steps would be initiated in near future against the airing of excessive foreign content.

Under Pemra rules, only 10 per cent of airtime (two hours and 40 minutes in a 24-hour transmission) is allowed for foreign contents.

The Pemra chairman directed the managements of television channels and cable operators to voluntarily follow the rules.

The Pemra board meeting decided to completely stop the airing of any Indian channel in the country since none of them had landing rights in Pakistan.

Mr Alam said the cable operators had been allowed to display two to five CD channels, but some of them were exceeding this limit and they had been warned and issued notices.

In reply to a question, he said the punitive action would begin with fines and might lead to suspension and revocation of licences for repeated violations. He said the authority would write letters to the chief ministers for implementation of the Pemra decision with the help of police.

The bidding for Pakistani DTH will be held by the end of October this year.

The Pemra chairman also said that at the next stage action would be taken against the morning shows violating its code of conduct, adding that the authority had recently banned reenactment of crime-related incidents, but some channels had obtained stay order from court.

Govt, opposition to table bills for Panama probe

ISLAMABAD: After months of bickering and failure to agree on the terms of reference (ToR) for an inquiry commission to investigate the Panama Papers scandal, both government and opposition parties are set to introduce their own, separate bills in the two houses of parliament.

On Wednesday, the federal cabinet approved the ‘Commissions of Inquiry Act, 2016’ — to replace the current law, which has been in force since 1956 – which will be tabled before the National Assembly in its upcoming session.

But hours after the cabinet approved the draft, the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) submitted its own bill seeking the formation of a judicial commission on Panamagate to the Senate secretariat.

Cabinet approves new inquiry commission law; PPP submits own draft to Senate secretariat

The opposition bill, which was also endorsed by Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) parliamentary leader Shah Mehmood Qureshi when he met PPP leaders on Tuesday, is titled ‘Panama Papers Inquiries Act 2016’.

Speaking to reporters at the Parliament House after submitting the bill, Senate Opposition Leader Aitzaz Ahsan said the opposition parties had already rejected the government-proposed law and reiterated the call for the formation of a commission of Supreme Court judges to carry out a probe of the over 600 Pakistanis whose names had appeared in the Panama Papers leaks.

Mr Ahsan said their bill provided for across-the-board accountability, adding that the bill suggested a forensic audit of all the money sent abroad through secret channels. He said the proposed law made it binding upon all those whose names had appeared in the Panama Papers to provide judges of the commission access to their bank accounts.

PPP spokesperson Farhatullah Babar told Dawn the government had shared its proposed amendments to the Commission of Inquiry Act, 1956 with the opposition, which was unanimously rejected by the opposition, since it unnecessarily broadened the scope of inquiries, defeating the very purpose of the law.

Though the government had given more powers to the commission, it had broadened its scope far too much, making it almost impossible for it to complete its investigations, he said.

However, Mr Babar said he did not know whether the draft approved by the cabinet was the same that was shared with them, adding that the government’s secrecy around the draft raised suspicion.

However, talking to Dawn, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar claimed the government was bringing a “completely new law”, after which the old one would stand repealed.

He also admitted that the approved draft was not the same as the one shared with the opposition.

“It’s not the same draft we gave to the ToR Committee the last time, it’s a further improved version,” the minister said.

Briefing reporters on the decision reached in the cabinet meeting, Mr Dar said that through the new law, the government had “empowered the commission” — an apparent reference to criticism of the old law by Chief Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali, who had observed that any commission formed under the 1956 law would be “toothless”.

The existing law, Mr Dar said, had been around for 60 years and several inquiries had been conducted under: from the separation of East Pakistan in 1971 to the killing of Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad in 2012.

That the opposition has chosen to submit its bill to the Senate comes as no surprise, since they command a majority in the upper house. The government, meanwhile, is confident of its majority in the lower house, and can also bulldoze legislation through a joint sitting, if need be.

In June, after a series of meetings of the parliamentary committee on the Panama Papers issue, opposition parties had decided not to hold further talks with the ruling coalition after the government’s refusal to accept their ToR for a Panama-specific probe.

The opposition alliance not only rejected the government-prepared ToR, but presented its own version, demanding that the judicial commission begin the inquiry with the prime minister and his family.

However, both sides had agreed that besides concentrating on the individuals named in the Panama Papers, the committee will also go after those who received kickbacks and commissions, as well as those who had their loans written off illegally.

Salient features

Although the government bill was not released to the media, the opposition bill seen by Dawn includes all their proposed terms of reference (ToR), which the government has already rejected, as provisions of the law.

In the draft bill, the commission has been given all the powers of a court under the Constitution, the Pakistan Penal Code, the Code of Criminal Procedure and the Supreme Court Rules.

The bill binds the commission to first investigate Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his family members before proceeding against the other Pakistanis named in the Panama Papers.

However, the text avoids naming PM Sharif or his office, instead referring to: “respondents, including their family members, who have publicly volunteered for accountability or have publicly admitted holding of assets and properties or off-shore companies abroad”.

The commission is bound to complete the inquiry against the prime minister in three months – with the option for a one month extension – while it will get 12 months to proceed against all others whose names had appeared in the Panama Papers.

According to the proposed law, the federal government will be required “to make a reference to the chief justice of Pakistan to nominate three judges of the Supreme Court to be constituted as a commission to inquire into the revelations made by the Panama Papers.”

The commission shall be bound to submit a final report for each case to the federal government, which will be published by the federal government within one week of its submission.

“The federal and provincial governments and all governmental agencies and executive authorities, including the National Accountability Bureau, Federal Investigation Agency, Intelligence Bureau, Federal Board of Revenue, State Bank of Pakistan and Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan shall act in aid of the Commission and extend all cooperation and assistance necessary to the Commission and shall comply with all its directions.”

Jamaat backs merger of Fata with KP

MARDAN: Jamaat-i-Isalmi chief Senator Sirajul Haq has said that their party backs merger of Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

He was talking to journalists in Katlang area here on Wednesday after offering condolence to JI local leader Abdul Jalal on the death of his wife.

Mr Siraj said that they were supporting merger of Fata with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa but a decision in that regard should be made in the tribal areas instead of Islamabad.

He said that discrimination against the citizens of the country would not be allowed anymore.

He alleged that on one hand Wapda officials were disconnecting power supply to the houses of common people in case of non-payment of electricity bills but on the other hand corrupt leaders were looting the national exchequer ruthlessly and getting clean chit from the respective institutions.

‘‘Pakistan and corruption cannot go alongside as they are two opposite things,” said the JI chief. He added that they had not only launched train march and an effective anti-corruption movement in the country but also moved Supreme Court for a corruption-free Pakistan.

“It is need of the hour to hold accountable those, who are named in Panama leaks, as well as owners of other offshore companies,” said Mr Siraj. He added that those, who looted the country, did not deserve to be spared or give any relaxation.

The JI leader said that although federal government was using delay tactics in formation of commission regarding Panama leaks yet it could not succeed.

Mr Siraj said that Afghan refugees had spent a long time in Pakistan that’s why they should return to their homeland. However, he said that their return should not be a forced one as India would try to exploit the opportunity and use its lobby in Afghanistan against Pakistan.

The JI leader said that keeping in view interests of Pakistan, the rulers should make sure dignified repatriation of Afghan refugees so that a good and positive image of the host country could be left in their mind. It would bear fruitful results for people of both the countries, he added.

CPEC to bring economic prosperity in GB: Ahsan

GILGIT: Federal Minister for Planning and Development Ahsan Iqbal on Wednesday said the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor would bring economic prosperity in Gilgit-Baltistan.

He was speaking at the inaugural session of a two-day seminar on CPEC here. The federal minister was chief guest at the seminar.

Mr Iqbal said the perception that GB people would have no share in the mega project was baseless and wrong, adding the region would become a model of ecological economy. He maintained that GB was gateway of the project.

“GB is face of Pakistan. We will make the region as Switzerland of Pakistan under CPEC.”

The federal minister said that the nation had to fail the designs of the enemies of the project. He also rejected the allegation that CPEC was China-Punjab Corridor.

He said under the CPEC, 15 power projects would be set up in Sindh and 13 in Balochistan. He announced that through optical fiber Khunjirab and Islamabad would be connected by next year, saying GB people would get 3G and 4G internet facility.

The minister said the modern internet system would help create job opportunities for youth in GB. He said economic zones of CPEC would be established in GB, AJK and four provinces of Pakistan.

“Under the project, engineering and medical colleges, a university in Baltistan, and various roads would be constructed in GB,” he said.

Speaking on the occasion, Chief Minister Hafeezur Rehman said GB was entry point of CPEC project.

Mushahid Hussain Syed, Chairman of Parliamentary Committee on CPEC in Senate, said GB was pillar for CPEC. “GB is key area for the project and we cannot ignore the region in distribution of economic benefits,” he added.

He said the Chinese government had made special task force for development of GB. He said GB people would get representation in National Assembly and Senate.

Abdul Ghafur Haideri, Deputy Chairman Senate, said the CPEC was national project, and that all people should unite for completion of the project. He demanded establishment of three economic zones of CPEC in GB.

PTI central leader Asad Umer also spoke on occasion.

However, former speaker GBLA Wazir Baig said that there was no single project for GB people in the CPEC.

GB governor, ministers, members of GBLA, lawyers, civil society activists, students from private and government institutions were in attendance.

The event was jointly organised by Karakoram International University and GB government.

Rangers’ claim about Karachi operation challenged

ISLAMABAD: A privilege motion notice was submitted with the Senate chairman on Wednesday against the Pakistan Rangers for misleading the Senate Standing Committee on Human Rights by claiming that an international organisation had endorsed the Karachi operation being carried out by the paramilitary force.

PPP Senator Farhatullah Babar informed the committee that the privilege motion notice had been submitted by him. The lawmaker said he had searched for the international human rights organisation and called people in Pakistan, India and Nepal who said the body “Human Rights Commission South Asia” did not exist.

“All individuals [had] disassociated themselves from the fake organisation,” Mr Babar said.

PPP senator says the HR body whose report was quoted by the paramilitary force does not exist

“The Human Rights Commission South Asia seems to be a bogus organisation created primarily by the vested interests for propaganda purpose,” he said, adding that “the submission of the report of a bogus organisation to defend the human rights record of a law enforcement agency has only undermined its own credibility”.

During a meeting of the committee in July, Col Qaiser Khattaq, who is said to be overseeing the Karachi operation, said that an international human rights organisation had endorsed the operation.

Mr Babar had challenged the Rangers’ claim and asked Col Khattaq to submit a copy of the report in the committee’s next meeting.

However, when the committee met on Wednesday, representatives from Pakistan Rangers were absent.

In a letter to the committee, the Rangers said its representatives would not be available until November “due to prevailing law and order situation of the Metropolitan city”.

The committee rejected the Rangers’ explanation.

“We want the law enforcement agency to answer for misleading parliament by quoting the report of a non-existing fictional international human rights body,” said Mr Babar, adding that the credibility of Pakistan Rangers had been stained because of this move.

The committee was unanimous in expressing concern over the continued absence of Rangers representatives from the meetings and demanded their presence at the next meeting.

“There is no justification whatsoever for the Rangers’ absence,” said Mohsin Leghari, adding that it only gave a bad name to the institution.

However, PML-N Senator Nisar Muhammad defended the operation. “Karachi is a changed city only because of Rangers,” he said.

Dumped bodies

The committee took several decisions pertaining to the killing of people and dumping of bodies in Balochistan over the past two years.

It recommended DNA tests of all such bodies and reiterated its call for adoption of draft legislation to “rein in state agencies”.

The debate was triggered when Quetta’s DIG Crimes Shakeel Ahmed Durrani informed the meeting that 52 bodies had been found dumped in ‘A areas’ of Balochistan over the past two years.

The meeting learnt that cases were not being investigated as no-one had come forward to lodge a report with the police. While local police were in charge of ‘A areas’, their jurisdiction ended in ‘B areas’ which came under the jurisdiction of Frontier Corps, the committee was informed.

Mr Babar said the admission that no-one had lodged a report with the police was stinging indictment of state institutions.

“This is a vote of no-confidence in the state machinery and the system of justice,” said Mr Babar while warning against consequences of state apathy towards the plight of the people of Balochistan.

He said the report of dumping of mutilated bodies was highly alarming as figures pertained only to ‘A areas’ where police were deployed.

“God alone knows how many bodies of unfortunate victims were found dumped in ‘B areas’ of Balochistan,” the senator said and demanded a complete report on the “killing and dumping cases” in all areas of the province year-wise at the next meeting.

On the advice of the chairman of the National Commission of Human Rights, retired Justice Ali Nawaz Chowhan, the committee decided to seek copies of the FIRs lodged by the state in cases of those whose bodies had been found dumped.

It also called for a report on whether there was a nexus between the people reported missing and dumped bodies in the province.