Transforming the Media Landscape
It was alleged that when the Kargil war happened, there were documents which claimed that it was Indian private TV channels that played a major role [in the war], so Pakistan should also have private channels. Gen Musharraf’s government used them on a limited scale.”
This is incorrect and misleading. During Benazir’s second tenure, only one unfairly authorised private FM channel began to operate. This was because the executive power of the prime minister was misused in 1995 to grant — without publishing public notices inviting applications as per declared eligibility criteria — exclusive rights in perpetuity, to a single private party reportedly close to the spouse of the prime minister.
This was done to operate the first-ever privately-owned FM radio and TV network in the country’s history on the basis of a summary put up to the prime minister by Hussain Haqqani who at the time was the information secretary.
As this writer had long written and campaigned for private electronic media, on belatedly learning of this outrageous misuse of power, in May 1996, a public interest petition was submitted directly to the Supreme Court under Article 184 (3) of the Constitution.
It was pointed out that the airwaves of a country, like its mineral resources, happen to be the property of the nation. The use of the spectrum cannot be allocated arbitrarily at the discretion of the prime minister or any other authority without ensuring that all eligible citizens have fair and equal opportunity to apply for the use of the airwaves.