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Naeem Bukhari’s PTV appointment is just another instance of cronyism

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Naeem Bukhari’s PTV appointment is just another instance of cronyism

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Lawyer, TV personality, and PTI member Naeem Bukhari was recently appointed as head of the Pakistan Television Corporation (PTV). But, Bukhari’s appointment is just another instance of cronyism in Pakistan.

Naeem Bukhari was Prime Minister Imran Khan’s lawyer and lead his legal team in the Panama Papers case. He has been a close confidante of the Prime Minister, but this alone is not enough to colour his appointment negatively. That, Bukhari did himself, when he gave a statement after his appointment saying that the opposition will get no airtime on PTV, as the PTV “is state television which represents the government”, and “only the government”.

The Prime Minister seems to have reneged on the PTI manifesto’s promise to revamp the PTV in the image of the BBC. Instead, he has appointed one of his cronies to curry public opinion in his favour through the PTV.

Banning the entire opposition from getting any airtime on the state broadcaster is a clear indicator of favouritism and cronyism. Other state broadcasters, which like the PTV are funded by taxpayers, do not institute media blackouts of the opposition parties. The British Broadcasting Service (BBC), that Imran Khan wished to remodel the PTV on, does not deny the Labour Party coverage despite the Tories being in power. Yet, in Pakistan the state broadcaster seems to be set to deny a platform to the opposition, who are still the elected representatives of many of the taxpayers it is funded by.

Every political party installs its own people at the helm of governmental organisations in an effort to cement its own power. Whether that is the appointment of a NAB chairman that will lead a witch hunt against the opposition, or a PTV chairman that will only parrot the government’s narrative.

The Prime Minister seems to have reneged on the PTI manifesto’s promise to revamp the PTV in the image of the BBC. Instead, he has appointed one of his cronies to curry public opinion in his favour through the PTV. Naeem Bukhari’s appointment will not do anything to solve the problems that plague the PTV. It is inefficient, uncompetitive, loss bearing and outdated. But, when its new Chairman’s priorities are to distract from the politics of the opposition and sing praises of the incumbent government it is doubtful the organisation will undergo a positive revival.

The PTI government’s appointment of Naeem Bukhari is just another disappointment in a long line of disappointments.

However, it would be unfair to pretend as if the Prime Minister has done something unconventional. There is history of political appointments across government organisations. Every political party installs its own people at the helm of governmental organisations in an effort to cement its own power. Whether that the is appointment of a NAB chairman that will lead a witch hunt against the opposition, or a PTV chairman that will only parrot the government’s narrative. The PML-N also appointed their long term sympathiser and advocate, Ata-ul-Haq Qasmi, as PTV chairman in 2015. And he didn’t prove to beneficial to the organisation either, he appointed himself as Managing Director (MD) in addition to being chairman and drew the ire of the Supreme Court for this decision as well as his extraordinarily ‘handsome’ remuneration.

The PTI government’s appointment of Naeem Bukhari is just another disappointment in a long line of disappointments. Cronyism is proven to have a detrimental impact on economic performance both on a national and individual level, and it negatively affects the performance of employees as well. Thus, at best the PTV won’t sink further into the mire of problems that it is stuck in, and at worst it will now contribute to the active censorship of not just the opposition but any and all who criticise the government.

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