ISLAMABAD: The role of media in the propagation of unverified reports that the Intelligence Bureau (IB) had prepared a list of parliamentarians with links with banned outfits was criticised by National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Privilege.

Reportedly, IB had compiled that list on the directives of former premier Nawaz Sharif to monitor the activities of these parliamentarians.

At the beginning, members of the committee expressed their dissatisfaction on Minister for Information Marriyum Aurangzeb’s absence from the meeting despite her being summoned to explain how media outlets ran news bulletins based on the report without first verifying it.

It should be mentioned here that the journalist responsible for the story has maintained that he was given confirmation as to the veracity of the facts of the story by IB officials. However, the IB has outright denied the claim.

The committee was moved to take the matter up by Mian Imtiaz Ahmed, whose petition to the committee stated that the Prime Minister House had never asked the IB to create any such document, which calls into question how the story was allowed to be published.

In his petition, Ahmed said that parliamentarians could not do their jobs if they were accused of having ties with banned militant outfits. He added that the enquiry report and the first investigation report lodged regarding the matter should be shared with the parliament.

Members of the committee agreed that the parliamentarians named in the list had been through severe mental and emotional stress because of the allegations.

Committee member Muhammad Bashir Virk remarked that the chairman of the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) is a good man but seems helpless in this particular matter. The committee nonetheless asked that when the regulations had been set by PEMRA, why they were not being followed.

Members of the committee also commented on media outlets’ practice of inviting members of different political parties to their programmes and then pitting them against each other. “Various political show hosts get personal and levy baseless allegations against members of different political parties,” a member of the committee said during the meeting.

The committee also discussed the continuous downfall of Pakistan International Airline (PIA). They remarked that the airline’s staff was rude to passengers, along with substandard food served on PIA flights.

The committee also deliberated on why the national flag carrier raised its ticket prices during Haj and Umrah season, instead of providing relief to the citizens.

Civil Aviation Secretary Irfan Elahi, who was called in to answer questions regarding the suspension of PIA’s flights to New York, told the meeting that the flights had been discontinued because they were incurring losses. He added that PIA’s new business plan looks to cut the airline’s losses.

Elahi told the meeting that the national flag carrier is in talks with America to start a direct flight to New York, and added that flights to New York would resume as soon as an agreement is reached upon. ­Courtesy Pakistan Today

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