Another PML-N Crony Caught: Ex-Chairperson Qasmi Milked PTV, Claims the Audit Report brings you the exclusive audit-report document of Qasmi’s tenure as Chairperson. 

By Maryam Iraj

Yet another story of corruption by a government official is up for our reading. Not a single day goes by without reading the reports of criminal offense and negligence by government employees. Yesterday, the special audit report on the expenditure of Pakistan Television Corporation (PTV) has been presented in court which revealed that former PTV Chairman, Attaul Haq Qasmi, has been involved in massive financial embezzlement of Rs. 220 million in just two years.

Qasmi, recipient of the highest civilian honors: Pride of Performance, Sitara-Imtiaz, and Tamgha-e-Imtiaz, served PTV from 2015 till December 2017 as its Chairperson, and ensured to milk this national asset to bones. Qasmi has also been involved with Pakistan Television for over 35 years as a playwright. If Qasmi fails to prove himself innocent, the apex court must not only punish him according to the law but also ask him to return the honors which he received from the state. If the creative minds are corrupted, there is nothing left to hope for. This so-called delusional government of PML-N is terribly out of control, bloated and infested with fraud, deceit, corruption, and abuse of power. They have not corrupted the individuals, they have corrupted the institutions, be it PTV, PIA, or PSM. We are at loss on every national front. Had it not been for our judiciary and army, we would have been completely destroyed by this time as a nation.

Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP), Mian Saqib Nisar, heard a 2006 petition on February 2, 2018, filed by a producer who worked for PTV, which claimed that the absence of a Managing Director (MD) in PTV had a negative consequences on the organizational operations. The hearing led to the further probe of hundreds of millions of rupees spent over the PML-N crony, and ex-chairman, Qasmi.

Important to note here that Qasmi had already ignited controversy in April 2017 when he appointed “himself” as PTV MD while also remaining its Chairman. Five days later, following the immense pressure, he was replaced by Information Secretary, Sardar Ahmed Nawaz Sukhera, who was appointed as acting MD. Qasmi and Sukhear had known differences which led the former to resign in December 2017.

Qasmi left the office in December 2017 by saying that “it had become increasingly difficult… to work for the restoration of [the] past glory of PTV”. Well, according to the audit report, he was busy in the restoration of his “personal well-being”. Every “man” is entitled to restore the “past glory” but not at the expense of the state.

Documents available with reveal how government had paid a total of Rs. 35.8 million in salary to Qasmi. In addition to this, the state-owned television channel had also paid Rs 12.4 million taxes on Qasmi’s salary.

Historically, Chairmen of PTV were also federal secretaries who were deputed on honorary basis. Qasmi is the second one who received the salary as Chairman PTV after Dr. Shahid Masood. Not only this, PML-N’s certified crony, Qasmi, was also paid traveling and daily allowances, and many other expenses in violation of PTV rules.

PTV is dead not only artistically but administratively as well with very little to offer to this nation. Gone are the days when its dramas ruled the subcontinent.

Qasmi claimed self-approved daily allowances of Rs. 301,753 and travel expense of Rs. 215,727 for a visit to Lahore on or near the weekend. The purpose of his visits was declared to be honouring commitments and conducting official meetings. For example, once he stayed in Ramada Hotel Islamabad with a total cost of Rs. 284,753.

In addition, he traveled to Belarus to attend an international book festival. Though he was not entitled accommodation on foreign trips, but this expense was approved by the then managing director of PTV.

In violation of MP1 medical entitlements, Qasmi purchased medicines worth Rs. 56,999 and used the hospital facilities worth Rs. 2,550 from the chemist and hospital not on the panel, and without following the applicable policy requirements.

Entertainment facilities were not counted in the MP1 entitlements provided to Qasmi but his membership of Islamabad Club was paid for by PTV, along with an additional monthly expense of Rs. 543,153. Islamabad club membership was permitted by the PTV managing director.

The report further quantified that two official vehicles were allocated to Qasmi when he was allowed to retain only one. The report further exposed that Qasmi’s telephone expenses for his Islamabad office, guesthouses and mobile phone were calculated at Rs. 123,789, around 22,000 and Rs 0.42 million respectively. According to the audit report, he was not entitled to these privileges either.

Moreover, Qasmi also used Rs. 57.01 million for house rent, the salary of the cook, purchase of items and guesthouse expenses. The report said that the PTV MD stayed at a guesthouse of Shalimar Recording and Broadcasting Corporation Limited (SRBC) from January 2016 to December 2017 (730 nights) without seeking prior written or verbal approval from PTV. The invoice was sent to PTV by SRBC on January 3, 2018, and had not been settled yet, as claimed a PTV official.

Furthermore, the report also showed that the expenses incurred on the revamp of the chairman’s office amounted to Rs. 2.4 million. Mr. Qasmi got his office’s retiring room and PSO’s office renovated, and due to these pressing chucks, tenders were not opened to public according to PPRA regulations. A photograph of the office (before renovation), shown in the court, contradicted the urgent need of renovation. Approval was provided by the then Managing Director.

Further, the documents stated that Rs. 1.3 million were wasted on the chairman’s camp-office in Lahore. This culture of regional camp-office had no precedent, highlighting the fact that no former chairman had ever occupied a camp-office in Lahore.

It also revealed that Qasmi used funds worth Rs.59 million for a programme, titled ‘Koye Hu’unn ki Justaju’, against the entitled amount of Rs. 9.7 million.

Audit also revealed that press-advertisement expenses amounted to Rs. 55 million against the allocated amount of Rs. 65 million. He also misused his administrative authority by firing 10 in-service directors of PTV, the report added. Important to pronounce here that many of the PTV retired employees have not been paid their retirement dues years after their last working day.

In the meantime, the Supreme Court of Pakistan on Tuesday granted two weeks to the former Chairperson of PTV, Attaul Haq Qasmi, for submission of objections, if any, on the above-mentioned audit report.

A three-member bench, headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP), Saqib Nisar, heard the case regarding the alleged illegal appointment of Qasmi in the state-run television facility by the then information minister, Pervaiz Rashid. Rashid announced Qasmi’s induction with great pride.

During the hearing, CJP remarked that the court would decide whether Qasmi’s appointment was legal or illegal. He further said that people responsible for making an illegal appointment would pay for the price.

The Additional Attorney General (AG) informed the apex court that the audit report had been completed and according to the report, the alleged Chairperson of PTV was entitled to use one official vehicle, whereas he had used more than two vehicles. Moreover, he made PTV pay for the overhaul of his personal Mercedes as well.

The court handed over a copy of the audit report to the Qasmi’s lawyer. The counsel also requested the Supreme Court to grant him four weeks to file a reply. In response to the request made by Qasmi’s council, the CJP gave Qasmi’s counsel to come up with a reply in two weeks instead of four, and the hearing was adjourned.