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Misuse of taxpayer money: Raza Rumi, Saleh Zaafir among corrupt Pakistani journalists who gained from secret fund

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ISLAMABAD (22 April 2013): The list of the 282 journalists who received payments and gifts from the secret fund of the information ministry was made public following a Supreme Court order. The complete list can be viewed as a PDF here.

The list of  disbursements totals just over Rs177 million. The case has caused huge embarrassment to both Islamist and pro-establishment pseudo-liberal journalists who received perks in financial or non-financial terms (hotel stay, banquets, flights etc) on taxpayers money.

Many names of senior journalists and anchors are included in the list, some of whom have been added for being provided flights or accommodation as part of official delegations with government officials such as the former prime minister.

According to the rules and regulations, the purpose of the secret fund is only to obtain or uncover sensitive information necessary to protect ‘national interest/national security’. It cannot be used for any other purpose, such as emergencies or incidental expenses. All withdrawals are supposed to come under specific heads and justifications.

While there is a general hush up in Pakistani media, on Twitter, there is impassioned condemnation of those journalists whose hotel bills and flights were paid from taxpayer money despite the fact that many of them are heavily paid by their respective TV channels and newspapers. In particular, there was much criticism of Raza Rumi (a lifestyle liberal editor of Najam Sethi’s The Friday Times and director of pro-establishment Jinnah Institute) and Saaleh Zaafir (a pro-establishment Islamist columnist of Jang Group).

Another list of 155 journalists who took gifts and payments from the information ministry will also be made public later.

Hush up

Pakistan’s rapacious media is not known for ignoring a juicy story, particularly one involving secret government slush funds used to buy political support. But on Monday (22 April 2013), the country’s websites and televisions stations were oddly muted when the supreme court ordered the release of a list of hundreds of payments made to journalists which, critics claim, were part of an effort to buy the government favourable coverage.

According to the list collated by the ministry of information which had in the past argued that it should be protected as an official secret, nearly £1.2m was paid to journalists in the form of cash payments, hotel bills or plane tickets between August 2011 and March 2013. In addition to receiving entertainment and dinners at hotels, scores of journalists received cash described simply as “financial assistance” with the amounts ranging from about £130 to as much as £3,000.

But there were few breaking news alerts on the country’s hyperactive rolling news channels as news organisations not usually known for careful scrutiny of stories took their time to digest the information.

“I think everyone is just going through this list to see whether any of their people are on it and then to work out how to handle it,” said Zaffar Abbas, editor of Dawn, a venerable English language daily. Its website was one of the first to publish a story about the list.

Suspicions of unethical behaviour and influence peddling has long hung over Pakistan’s media class, which has grown enormously since former military dictator Pervez Musharraf liberalised the commercial television sector in 2002.

Background

SC Judge Jawwad S Khawja remarked during the April 11 hearing of the information ministry secret funds case that Rs300 million was apparently given away to a private television channel.

Journalists and members of the civil society demanded the Supreme Court make public the names of the private TV channel that received Rs300 million from the information ministry and of all those journalists who allegedly received huge payments from the ministry.

The Supreme Court was astonished to learn that the federal information ministry had distributed gifts worth millions from its secret funds among a few journalists during the year 2011-12. “Were these gifts worth millions distributed among the journalists due to some national security issue?” asked a two-judge Supreme Court bench comprising Justice Jawwad S. Khwaja and Justice Khilji Arif Hussain. The bench was hearing a set of petitions regarding media accountability initiated on the behest of some television anchors.

The government was initially reluctant to give details on the distribution of the money, even though article 19-A (freedom to information) has been inserted in the constitution through the 18th amendment, Justice Khwaja observed, adding that one of the objectives of the proceedings was to know where the public money was being spent.

This is the first time that any such list has come into light as in the past the secret fund of the information ministry was never made public.

Another list of payments and gifts was expected to be made public later.

The order of the SC came during the hearing of the case pertaining to petitions file by two private television channel anchors who had requested the court to probe the matter of media accountability and payments made to journalists by the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP)- led government in 2011-2012.

Earlier last year, the court had begun its probe and sought information and froze the funds of the information ministry after the petitioners had sought a probe and requested an end to the secret funds of the information ministry.

The information ministry had then denied the allegations.

Later this year, the apex court found out that that the federal information ministry had distributed gifts worth millions from its secret funds among a few journalists during the year 2011-12.

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Sources:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/apr/22/pakistan-media-journalists-secret-fund

http://tribune.com.pk/story/538900/secret-funds-case-list-of-282-journalists-to-be-made-public-today/

http://dawn.com/2013/04/22/explosive-list-of-bribed-journalists-to-be-made-public-today/

http://dawn.com/2013/04/11/journalists-given-gifts-from-secret-funds/

About the author

Jehangir Hafsi

17 Comments

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  • Today is a sad day. Despite my doubts about his role in ISI-think tank, I thought Rumi will be financially clean. He is not!

  • Rumi, caught red handed, is abusing the LUBP blog. Shows his (lack of) moral integrity.

    Hassan Saleem Awan ‏@hsawan 14m
    @CriticalPPP: Misuse of taxpayer money: Raza Rumi/Saleh Zaafir among corrupt Pakistani journalists | http://bit.ly/13PYW6j @Razarumi |

    Raza Rumi ‏@Razarumi 3m
    @hsawan Stray dogs found another bone to pick (no pun intended).

  • Might I say, with GREAT RELISH, that this is the umpteenth vindication of the LUBP blog’s stand on the prominent fake liberal B-S-er Rumi. All this while Laibaah Marri and Abdul Nishapuri continued to point to Rumi’s latent support of our military establishment and were ridiculed for that by Maulana Rumi of Madrassah Jinnah Institute. Speaking of which, it would be interesting if LUBP authors can investigate whether that institution too received any covert financial patronage!

  • خفیہ فنڈز: پروگرام کے لیے کروڑوں

    سپریم کورٹ نے ذرائع ابلاغ سے تعلق رکھنے والے اُن افراد کی فہرست جاری کی ہے جن کے بیرونِ ملک دوروں کے اخراجات اور خصوصی اسائنمنٹ کی رقم وزارت اطلاعات کے خفیہ فنڈز سے ادا کی گئ

    اس فہرست میں اُن صحافیوں کے نام بھی ہیں جو وزیر اعظم کے بیرون ملک دوروں کے دوران اُن کے ہمراہ گئے تھے اور وہاں پر اُنہیں غیر ملکی کرنسی میں رہنے اور کھانے پینے کے اخراجات بھی دیے گئے تھے۔
    اس فہرست میں دو سو بیاسی آئٹم ہیں جن میں غیر ملکی دوروں پر وزیراعظم کے ساتھ جانے والے صحافیوں پر اُٹھنے والے اخراجات، پاکستان میں مختلف صحافیوں کو دی جانے والی امداد اور پریس کلب کو دی جانے والی گرانٹ بھی شامل ہے۔
    اس فہرست میں سب سے کم رقم صحافیوں کی بیواؤں پر خرچ کی گئی ہے۔ فہرست کے مطابق دس مرحوم صحافیوں کے بیواؤں کو گُزشتہ دو سال کے دوران دس لاکھ سے بھی کم رقم دی گئی جبکہ اس کے برعکس کچھ صحافیوں کو ایک اسائنمنٹ کے تین تین لاکھ روپے دیے گئے۔
    نامہ نگار شہزاد ملک کے مطابق خفیہ فنڈز سے متعلق درخواستوں کی سماعت کے دوران وزارتِ اطلاعات کے ڈائریکٹر طاہر حسن نے کہا کہ’جس طرح پاکستان شدت پسندی کے خلاف جنگ لڑ رہا ہے اس لیے اس کے حق میں کالم لکھوانے کے لیے مارکیٹ میں جو دستیاب صحافی ہیں اُنہیں پیسے دے کر جعلی ناموں سے کالم لکھوائے جاتے ہیں‘۔
    بینچ کے سربراہ جسٹس جواد ایس خواجہ کا کہنا تھا کہ سرکاری خزانے کو کیسے تشہیر کے لیے استعمال کیا جا سکتا ہے۔
    اُنہوں نے کہا کہ عوام کا حق ہے اُنہیں معلوم ہونا چاہیے کہ اُن کی جیبوں سے جو ٹیکس کی شکل میں پیسہ نکالا گیا ہے وہ کہاں پر استعمال ہو رہا ہے۔ اس مقدمے کی سماعت چوبیس اپریل تک ملتوی کر دی گئی۔

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/urdu/pakistan/2013/04/130422_media_funds_list_rh.shtml

  • One fine morning we will reveal secret pen name of a journalist who is fond of attacking LUBP and other anti-establishment bloggers.

    People who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones. Stop bullying & threatening anti-Taliban bloggers or be ready to face music!

  • The names of ALL the journalists on the payroll of information dept. should be
    exposed, as also those found receiving funds from CIA.

    People of Pakistan need to know what they are seeing or reading is truth or
    a made up lie by agent of powers that be.

    Some journalists have earned millions at the cost of compromising sovereignty
    and territorial integrity of Pakistan. Such culprits need to be condemned and exposed. No bars should hold in interest of Pakistan.

    Muhammad Javed Iqbal

  • MALE-MUFT-DIL-HE -BE-RAHAM what’s the new in this news corruption now in our blood if you more corrupted more honorable this is my money ,your money who is accountable for this still those yellow journalist are sitting on the channel doing programs with out any shy all channel are keep quite now where is ‘BREAKING NEWS’ ITNA SANNATA KIYOON HAI BHAI.

  • Raza Roomi is a pucca munafiq. He takes money from both PPP and PML N and most probably ISI. Has his finger in every pie. I am a life long Jiyala but when I see the growing influence of Roomi, it is sad. Chairman Bilawal needs to be very careful of such Namak Harams as Roomi who takes money from PPP government but writes rubbish praise of Zia ki aulad Nawaz Sharif.

  • So Raza Rumi takes money from PPP and sings praises of PML N Talibans. What a useless waste of money. Then he and his rabid Sipah Sahaba collegues start cursing LUBP editors and supportors and then even their own friends like Marvi Sirmed. He pretends to be a liberal champion but heads Pro-Taliban Jinnah Inst. and publishes Sipah Sahaba propaganda. LUBP and others should file an FIR against this sick man. Beena Sarwar used to baselessly attack LUBP but never had the guts or decency to correct abusive language of her friends like Raza Rumi and Pro army Ejaz Haider. These are all hypocrites and LUBP has exposed them.

  • This list of the disbursement of cash or kind to top class Pakistani journalists from the Secret Funds of the Ministry of Information is merely a tip of the ice berg!
    If the Supreme Court of Pakistan does not, in a similar way, expose the Secret or non-Secret funds of the Provincial Governments, Military-Controled institutions, such as ISPR or ISI, distributed among journalists for any reason, then it would mean that our judges simply want to expose the names of those journalist who deliberately or unwittingly received benefits from PPP-led Fedral Government!
    Targetting one political party and leaving other parties or security agencies untouched would be a manifestation of gross travesty of justice. This would amount to influencing the elections hence an attempt to pre-poll rigging and Election Commission of Pakistan should take notice of the abdominal role of the Supreme Coyrt of Pakistan or some of its judges because it is the duty of Election Commission of Pakistan to ensure free and fair elections as envisioned in the Article 218 (3) of the Constitution:
    “It shall be the duty of the Election Commission [239KA][ * * ] to organize and conduct the election and to make such arrangements as are necessary to ensure that the election is conducted honestly, justly, fairly and in accordance with law, and that corrupt practices are guarded against.”
    If Supreme Court of Pakistan indulges in corrupt practices during the Election Campaign period then it is obligatory upon the Election Commission to stop such practices! Why can’t our Supreme Court find out the use or misuse of billions of rupees spent by our Military-controlled secret funds?
    The Asghar Khan case is a monumental evidence to prove that Military has used such funds in the past to influence the election results, and the Military would not do in 2013!
    Therefore, not only that over-active judges of the Supreme Court should clearly do justice with the institution but justice should appear to be done even-handedly and judiciously.
    And Election Commission should also warn these over-active judges of the Supreme Court of their activities which amount to influencing elections which is a crime!

  • We should not conflate things. We may have intellectual disagreement with Raza Rumi or even dislike his political positions but that doesn’t mean that we should not give credit or benefit of doubt where it is due. If he was asked to join a conference by the Ministry of Information (MoI), then the MoI is required to provide boarding, lodging and travel costs. It is MoI mistake or financial mismanagement to draw money under this head from its secret funds. Raza can’t be held accountable for MoI financial mismanagement. There is no mention of any special assignment or financial assistance against his name, which can be considered the ‘code’ terms for journalists on the take. So rather than using this information to smear him, it is better to provide good responses to his intellecutal positions that we disagree with.

  • @Tulla

    There’s a list B too that has more money with no names (names removed by MoI).

    There’s so much in circumstantial evidence against Rumi. He currently heads a think tank known to be funded and sponsored by the military establishment. He is acting chief editor of The Friday Times, owned by pro-establishment thug Najam Sethi. He routinely promotes ISI-patent mullah Tahir Ashrafi and publishes and humanizes Ludhianvi. His closest colleagues include Ejaz Haider, Ali Chishti, Mohammad Shehzad, Najam Sethi and other ISI-affiliated thugs.

    What more evidence do you need? A smoking gun?

  • Innocent Public should not waste their time by seeing programs of corrupt media and corrupt ankers who are on payroll of PML-N. They ask loaded and prefeeded questions, false analysis to misguide innocent citizens instead of discussing real issues of public. Anchors better called as actors and actresses are Talat Hussain (Black Sheep), Kashif Abbasi(Black Sheep), Wasim Badami, Hamid Mir (Belong to traitors like mir jafar-mir sadiq), Osama, mazahar abbas, mehar bukhari(Black Sheep), asama shirazi(Black Sheep), salim safi(Black Sheep), nazir naji(Black Sheep), p.j mir (Another mir jafar-mir sadiq), kamran khan(Black Sheep), Freeha Idrees, shahzeb khanzada, ibsar alam(Double Black Sheep), javaid chaudhry-gujjar (master of sycophancy, Sabir Shakir(Double Black Sheep), Mujibur rehman Shami(Black Sheep), Saeed Ilahi((Black Sheep planted by PML-N in din news and one hour time purchased for propaganda in fanour of PML-N and to befool public ) and many others. They are “bikao mal” and exert as much as they are feeded rupees and dollars. They are a curse for nation.

  • Hamid Mir visited Iran where he was lavishly bribed and every word he wrote after his return to Pakistan was paid by the Islamic Republic of Iran. He fooled the innocent people of Pakistan. You listen to the BBC and you will know what is going on in Iran. It is true he is a big black sheep. Shame on him

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