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October 14, 2018

Directorate of Culture criticised for withholding artistes’ monthly stipends


October 14, 2018

PESHAWAR: Artistes and literati on Saturday criticised the Directorate of Culture for withholding their monthly stipends for the past five months.

Talking to The News, they said officials of the KP Directorate of Culture had withheld payment of the monthly stipends after the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) Khyber Pakhtunkhwa asked it to submit the record of the programme.

Senior artiste Iffat Siddiqi said the directorate only paid two instalments to the beneficiaries and later withheld the payment.

She said there was not much work for artistes as the entertainment industry was hit hard due to a host of reasons in the past several years and they were left jobless.

She said the Directorate of Culture had occupied the Nishtar Hall and demanded huge money for booking the venue for any drama or other entertainment events, which also affected the industry.

Actress Nadia Khan said that the government had transferred the funds to the account of Directorate of Culture but it was not paying the stipends to artistes, due to which their families were finding it hard to manage domestic expenditures.

Senior artiste Lala Muhammad, commonly known as Aman, deplored the decision of withholding the monthly stipends and termed it unjust.

He said the Peshawar High Court on August 16 directed the Directorate of Culture to resume the payment of the stipends to artistes but lamented that the officials have ignored the directive.

He said that the directorate should have challenged the PHC decision in the Supreme Court, instead of making excuses.

Sultan Hussain said artistes were respected in other countries as they bring cheers to the faces of people but in Pakistan they were the most ignored people.

He said that they would stage a protest outside the Banigala residence of Prime Minister Imran Khan in Islamabad if the Directorate of Culture did not release the withheld monthly stipends.

Zulfiqar Qureshi said that the directorate had sought legal opinion of the matter from the Law Department and it also advised the directorate to release the monthly stipends as per the directions of the PHC but the directorate officials were unmoved.

A poet, Sabir Shah Sabir, said that the artistes and literati have limited sources of income and lacked work opportunities and the stipends were meant a lot to them.

Deputy Director Directorate of Culture Shahbaz Khan said that the directorate has withheld stipends after the NAB asked it to submit the record of the monthly stipends on the allegations that government employees and ineligible people were included in the initiative.

He said that the PHC directives were issued before the NAB sought the records of the initiative and that was why the directorate was reluctant to release the stipends.

About the comments of Law Department in the issue, he said it had advised the directorate to hold a meeting with NAB authorities and resolve the issue through mutual understanding.

“We would discuss the matter with the NAB authorities after the latter contacts us in this regard. The stipends could not be released until the legal obstacles in the matter are cleared,” he said.

The previous Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI)-led provincial government had allocated Rs150 million for people associated with languages, literature, and performing and visual arts.

The first instalment of cheques was distributed in May last in a ceremony organised at the Nishtar Hall. The artistes and literati were supposed to get monthly stipends for nine months.

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