Ex-servicemen body supports Pemra’s restrictions

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Ex-Servicemen Society (PESS) has supported the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority’s (Pemra) decision to impose restrictions on TV channels over inviting retired military officers to their talk shows and other programmes as defence analysts.

A statement issued by the PESS on Sunday said that the society distanced itself from a decision taken by the Ex-Servicemen Legal Forum to challenge in court the Pemra’s directives that retired officers take permission from the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) before appearing on television.

Retired Lt Col Inamur Rahim Khawaja, convener of the Ex-Servicemen Legal Forum, told Dawn on Saturday that his group had decided to challenge the Pemra notification in the Islamabad High Court.

The PESS reiterated that the ISPR director general was the only voice of the armed forces. The decision was in national interest and the PESS stood behind it wholeheartedly, it added. According to the society, it has three million members.

The PESS disassociated itself from any ex-servicemen forum which did not agree with this decision. “Such forums/groups only wish to serve their own vested interest and that of their paymasters,” the statement said.

In a notification issued on Thursday, Pemra instructed all TV channels to seek prior clearance from the ISPR before inviting retired military officers on news and current affairs programmes “to solicit their views on matters of national security”.

The notification stated: “It has seriously been observed by the concerned quarters that retired military officers are frequently being invited in different news and current affairs programmes / talk shows as defence analysts to solicit their views / opinions on matters of national security and related affairs. Such invitees are usually not fully conversant with latest defence and security related developments due to their service background and post retirement time. Moreover, the discussion mostly switches from security-related matters to politics which inadvertently embroils military officers into political debate which is felt undesirable.”

The Forum is an association of retired army officers-turned-lawyers.

Mr Khawaja said that there were five associations and forums of retired officers and soldiers of the country’s armed forces and his Forum was one of them.