Basically, it says that BBC Urdu has been effectively banned from 24 out of the 34 local FM channels after Information Minister Qamaruzzaman Kaira refused to issue written permissions for them to relay BBC's news content. The 10 FM channels still able to relay the content (I'm not sure which ones these are, certainly none in Karachi) are the ones that had received written permission last year after the PPP government came into power.
According to the report:
"These [earlier] permissions had been granted in line with the PPP government's policy of guaranteeing the complete freedom of the media. In addition, the BBC had been assured that all new partner FM channels would also be given written permissions, but that given the government's policy, this was merely a formality and that all partner FM channels were free to air BBC news content until the completion of the paperwork. Based on this government policy, BBC's Urdu Service began to supply a further 24 partner channels with five-minute news bulletins, which were widely praised by FM listeners.
On the instructions of the Pakistan Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA), all BBC partner channels had submitted the necessary paperwork at PEMRA offices last October. But whenever BBC representatives asked about the progress on these cases, they were told 'Your news is being aired, what difference does written permission make?'
Last month, on March 27, however, BBC's partner channels were suddenly instructed to stop airing BBC news immediately. When PEMRA was asked about the matter, BBC was told that from now on no channel could run BBC news without written permission. However, it was also added that as soon as the information minister found time, a decision would be taken on the issue.
For many days, the excuse that the information minister was busy was used to postpone any action on the matter. Finally, last Friday the BBC representative was called to Islamabad and informed on Tuesday afternoon that no further FM channels would be given permission to air BBC news. No reasons were given."
Very credible sources indicate that the sudden pulling of the plug on the BBC bulletins actually occurred at the behest of the military. Apparently, the BBC Urdu Service had relayed a controversial news report culled from Indian media that had claimed that Pakistan's intelligence agencies were involved directly with David Headley - the American of Pakistani origin accused of scouting locations in Bombay for the Lashkar-e-Taiba and currently in American custody.What apparently incensed the Pakistani military was that the BBC - in disregard of its own rules of journalistic fairness - failed to ask it for its point of view on the report.
The military establishment may be correct in pointing out the lapse on the part of the BBC. But is petulant vengefulness really the way to achieve sympathetic coverage? Do Pakistanis not have a right to choose their sources of information? In an age of easy access to all sorts of media on the net, one also wonders which world Pakistan's media managers are living in.
And the pressure exerted by the 'deep state' still does not explain the foot-dragging since October over the granting of permissions by the civilian government. Unfortunately the bureaucratic red-tape used to delay straight-forward matters and keep matters in limbo (usually to preserve power) has become an abiding characteristic of Pakistani governments. Their motives may vary from the corrupt to a lack of focus to misplaced sense of control to simple unwillingness to take decisions. But in the end they often find out that their hesitation and inefficiency becomes a noose around their own necks. After all, they too will need a free media at some point.