ISLAMABAD: Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Chaudhry Fawad Hussain Wednesday said PMLN Vice President Maryam Nawaz had doled out over Rs18 billion from the national kitty to reward blue-eyed journalists and media channels at both federal and Punjab level during their last tenure.
The minister said that the matter would be investigated and details would be shared with the media. He told a news conference here that Maryam Nawaz gave away these public funds as head of a media cell at the Prime Minister’s House during PMLN previous regime. He explained with approval of the party’s media cell, supervised by Maryam Nawaz, Rs9.6 billion were utilised for funding federal government (advertisements), while around Rs10 billion for Punjab government.
The minister, flanked by Minister for Energy Hammad Azhar, announced to share the record with media persons after the briefing and said advertisements for the federal and provincial governments were managed by the ‘notorious media cell’ set up by the PMLN to reward specific journalists over stories in their favour.
Fawad said the story about media cell in 2015 had pointed out that a special media cell had been working under the direct supervision of Maryam Nawaz at the Prime Minister's House and initially, 15 members were made part of the cell and later, Rs20 million were allocated for additional recruitment and was mandated to run targeted media campaigns.
He said Maryam Nawaz in Wednesday's news conference affirmed that she was supervising the cell during PMLN tenure. A video clip of Maryam’s news conference was also screened on the occasion.
Fawad asserted the admission of Maryam of curtailing or blocking advertisements for specific television channels was certainly an immoral and illegal act. He remarked, “The handling of public funds by a private person is a crime under the jurisdiction of the FIA (Federal Investigation Agency), but also liable to disqualification while Maryam had already been disqualified under Article 62 and 63 of the Constitution”.
He emphasised Maryam's admission had proved that as to how the PMLN carried out 'systematic manipulation' of the media during its last tenure. He said, “The biggest evidence of ‘Gorakh Dhanda’ played through media cell has come before us: we have decided to hold an inquiry into this matter and in a few days we will present the details before the public and media.”
He said that the Ministry of Information had been made a puppet during the tenure of Pervaiz Rashid. Replying to a question, the minister said that the cases pending in the courts against PMLN are simple as the property, “you are living in and where did its money come from?”
He noted Section 9 of the NAB Ordinance states that money trail of properties should be provided, if not then it is a corrupt practice. He added that instead of giving money trail, PMLN wants to stop this. “If PMLN has evidence, it should present it in the courts. “The common man also wants money back from thieves,” he contended.
In response to another question, the minister said that Maryam Nawaz's confession is a test case for journalists as to how they would present their point of view on it. “We will investigate the matter and present to the media how government money was misused,” he declared.