ISLAMABAD: Ministry of Information and Broadcasting has decided to abolish the Strategic Media Communication Cell (SMCC), which had been working under the supervision of former premier’s daughter Maryam Nawaz.

The Prime Minister’s Office has directed the information ministry to shut down the cell as the premier did not need the cell anymore. Following the directives, the information ministry had started work to officially wrap-up the cell.

The summary of abolishing the communication cell will be presented to the incumbent premier as he heads the ministry in a capacity of the minister in-charge.

Earlier, State Minister for Information and Broadcasting Marriyam Aurangzeb had objected to the word “abolishing”. Following her objections, the title of the project was changed to “Allocation of SMCC functions to other wings of MoIB”, instead of “Abolishing of SMCC”.

The SMCC was established on the orders of then-prime minister Nawaz Sharif in 2014, as a part of the information ministry. The cell was set up in an attempt to raise awareness and run campaigns on polio eradication, energy conservation, school enrollment, environmental issues, viral diseases, anti-terrorism and other matters pertaining to electronic and social media.

Sources told Pakistan Today that the SMCC was limited to give response to government’s rival parties on social media on the instruction of Maryam Nawaz, the daughter of Nawaz.  Maryam was the de-facto head of the cell, added sources. However, Maryam on repeated occasions had rejected the notion of her running the cell.

“The government is planning to make social media of the ministry effective by induction of social media handlers,” added sources.

The purposed summary indicates that contract of employees will be terminated in April 2018 after the allocation of the SMCC functions to the ministry wing. At the moment, the cell consists of 11 people, with salaries ranging from Rs 45,000 to Rs 120,000.

It may be mention here that in last year, the federal government had decided to expand the operations of the SMCC, by increasing the number of employees from 11 to 35, but the Finance Division had rejected the move due to non-availability of fund. The budget of 11 employees was Rs 33 million in 2014-15.

Sources further claimed that initially the entire staff of the cell had been recruited on the recommendation of Maryam. Some of the key members held academic qualifications in communication and are also drawing salary from Pakistan Television Cooperation, said sources.

It may be noted that the SMCC came into being in 2014, soon after Maryam Nawaz Sharif was told to resign from the post of chairperson of the PM’s youth loan programme by the Lahore High Court.

Talking to Pakistan Today, information ministry secretary said the govt is planning to merge all IT-related wings into one consolidated wing.

When asked about how the induction of SMCC employees will be made to the ministry’s wing as they were working on contract, he said that these people would be hired as per government rules and regulations.

BS-17 or above grade job advertise through Federal Public Service Commission (FPSC) in federal ministries and departments, whereas the department will itself recruit the people below to BS-17. –Pakistan Today

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