Introduction of the Media Commission Report
On 15th January, 2013, a Bench of the Honourable Supreme Court of Pakistan comprising Mr. Justice Jawwad S. Khawaja and Mr. Justice Khilji Arif Hussain during its deliberations on Constitutional Petition No.105/2012 along with CMAs-3795 & 3798 of 2012, HRC No.23957-S/2012 and Const. P. 53/2012 and Constitution Petition No.104 of 2012 & CMA 3464/12 and Constitution Petition No.117/12 rendered an Order by which a Commission (called Media Commission) was appointed by the Hon’ble Court to conduct a study of issues raised by the several petitions through nine Terms of Reference (TORs).
Immediately after the receipt in Karachi by the Chairman and the Member of the written text of the Order and the related documents, on about 21st January2013, the Commission commenced informal discussion to identity the elements needed for the work of the Commission including a time schedule, logistical, personnel and financial requirements.
The Chairman and Member decided, at the outset, to render their work for the Commission on an honorary basis i.e. without any remuneration. Only expenses incurred by the Chairman and Member on air travel, hotel accommodation outside Karachi, ground transport in Karachi and elsewhere when and if required would be entitled for reimbursement.
After reviewing various options, the Commission decided to invite Mr. Salim Gul Sheikh, former Federal Secretary, Government of Pakistan, now a permanent resident of Islamabad to serve as Secretary of the Commission. While accepting the invitation, Mr. Salim Gul Sheikh also insisted on serving the Commission on an honorary basis without remuneration.
The Commission submitted Part-One of the Report on 21st March, 2013. The text of Part-One was placed on the website of the Supreme Court on 17th April, 2013.
Accepting the request of the Commission, the Court extended the deadline for completion of the Report to 315t May, 2013 instead of the original deadline of 31st March, 2013.
Even though the Chairman, Member and Secretary of the Commission continued to render their services on a voluntary and honorary basis, expenditures were inevitably required for salaries for support staff, research, logistics, including air-travel and ground travel, for the nine weeks remaining between the submission of Part-One of the Report and the deadline for the submission of Part-Two of the Report by 31st May, 2013.
Responding to a request from the Commission for additional funding support beyond the original sum of Rs.2 million, the Hon’ble Court directed the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting to release the additional amount of Rs.2 million, received by the Commission vide Cheque dated 22nd March, 2013.
A complete Statement of Account with supporting documents is provided as Section 6 of Part-Two of this Report. A sum of approximately Rs.1.5 million is being refunded by the Commission to the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting. Precise figures are given in the Statement of Accounts.
During preparation of Part-Two of this Report, the Commission continued to face difficulties in conducting work from offices located in rooms rented for this purpose at Qasr-e-Naz, the Federal Lodge at Club Road, Karachi. Work was initially disrupted and then completely discontinued because KESC cut off electricity supply to Qasr-e-Naz because of non-payment of dues. Even a rented generator did not prove to be a reliable source of power supply.
The Commission then reverted to using the premises of the Legal Aid Office of which the Chairman of the Commission is also the Chairman as well as the residence-cum-office of the Member of the Commission. The Secretary also often had to use his residence in Islamabad to conduct his work. Periodic disturbances and suspension of public transport in Karachi, including phases of terrorism and violence in the pre-election period, along with frequent load-shedding contributed to considerable inconvenience.
Nevertheless, the Commission was able to complete the drafting of Part-Two of the Report before the deadline of 31st May, 2013.
The Commission records its thanks to all members of the small but hardworking staff team of Researchers and Stenographers as well as the staff at the Legal Aid Office, the leaders and staff at SPO (Strengthening Participatory Organization), a leading civil society organization that provided support in cities outside Karachi, the Member’s team and the Secretary for enabling the timely completion of Part-Two of the Report.