Islamabad: The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI)-led government’s decision of a more than two-fold increase in the state-run TV’s monthly licence fee has not gone well with the public and they have strongly objected to it, saying it is an unjust and unfair act by the government.
Currently, the total amount collected through a licence fee of Rs35 per connection is around Rs10 billion (Dh219.269 million). Once the new tariff comes into effect, this figure will reach Rs22 billion (Dh482.392 million).
Last Friday, the federal government got the approval of the Cabinet members to raise the monthly licence fee from Rs35 to Rs100.
Ironically, Prime Minister Imran Khan himself had been highly critical of even the Rs35 licence fee collected under the erstwhile Nawaz Sharif government. Imran had, in fact, termed it as “robbery”. Outraged by the “arbitrary” increase in fees by the government, netizens have expressed their disapproval on social media.
Shama Junejo expressed her anger by posting a combo of video clips on her twitter handle that showed Imran’s speeches during the 2014 sit-in, when he harshly criticised the then government of prime minister Nawaz Sharif for collecting a monthly licence fee of Rs35.
In the video clips, Imran can be seen telling the participants at the sit-in that the [Nawaz Sharif] government was committing a robbery by collecting around Rs10 billion through electricity bills. “A nation that has the awareness and conscience cannot accept this,” Khan had further said.
He had shamed the PTV managing director and asked where did the money go that had been collected from the poor through utility bills? He had even threatened to take the matter to court.
In her post, Junejo asks Imran: “Now, you reply where [is] this amount after more than two-time increase is going.” (https://twitter.com/ShamaJunejo/status/1284800650690400257)
Special assistant justifies government move
Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Political Communication, Dr Shahbaz Gill, while responding to a question regarding the U-turn by Imran on the PTV licence fee hike issue, said the prime minister had criticised the former government for not disclosing where the money went, but this government will ensure that the money is spent in a transparent manner to ensure the welfare of the employees and harbour professional excellence at the state-run TV channel. Besides, he said, currently 4,600 employees were working with PTV, while 3,500 were pensioners.
In the past, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz government had employed 700 new workers and the Pakistan People’s Party had employed 1,300 without considering whether it could burden the national exchequer. In order to pay their salaries and pensions, too, we had to increase the licence fee, he reasoned.