ISLAMABAD: The All Pakistan Newspapers Society (APNS) was forced to cancel its annual award ceremony earlier this week when the chief guest, Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi refused to attend the event. As per sources, the prime minister who had earlier consented to join the event later refused to do so upon discovering that the APNS had approached his office by sidestepping Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb, and had also nominated an advertising agency currently being probed by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) for massive irregularities as one of the winners of the event.
Subsequently, the APNS had to cancel its 23rd Annual Award Ceremony at the eleventh hour, which caused inconvenience to the hundreds of invitees who had either arrived or made arrangements in the federal capital to attend the event.
Although there is no official word from the APNS management about the cancellation of the event, the website of the society [still] carries several documents about holding the event.
An official privy to the development informed Pakistan Today that the award ceremony was called off unexpectedly, at a moment when the cards had already been distributed and some guests had even come a long way from other cities to attend the event.
Commenting over the bypassing of the information minister, the official said that the APNS management had directly approached the Prime Minister’s Office with a request to grace the occasion. “The information minister only came to know about the event when the prime minister asked [her] about the list of the awards winners,” the official said.
After the invitation of the event came to the knowledge of the information minister and a probe was launched into the episode.
“Upon investigating, it was revealed that the winners were from such advertising agencies that were accused of financial discrepancies. One advertisement agency was being given five awards whose owner is behind bars for financial embezzlement, while several of its executives were also being interrogated by the NAB,” the official said.
The official said it was a very embarrassing situation for the APNS which is supposed to be a representative body of the print media industry, but it was going to give a lion’s share of awards to the advertising agency which had deprived most of the newspapers of the industry of the payment against the advertisements.
“Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, who had consented to be chief guest on the occasion, directed the awards ceremony to be cancelled after being informed about the award winners. The prime minister also got infuriated when he was informed before the ceremony that State Minister for Information and Broadcasting Marriyum Aurangzeb had been kept in the dark by the APNS management and the process was being directly communicated with the Prime Minister’s Office,” the official said.
The official said that not only the prime minister directed to cancel the event, the PM’s Office has also not given a new date to the APNS management for the awards.
APNS Annual Awards Ceremony, which was scheduled to be held on January 15, is supposed to be the most prestigious event of the print media industry. The awards ceremony was to cover the awards from the year 2013-2018.
On January 5, 2018, a letter signed by Umer Mujib Shami, the secretary general of the APNS, had urged the media houses’ owners to provide the lists of invitees for the awards ceremony.
The letter addressed to all Accredited Advertising Agencies had stated: “We are pleased to inform you that the 23rd APNS Annual Awards Ceremony is scheduled to be held on January 15, 2018, in Islamabad. PM Shahid Khaqan Abbasi has [also] consented to grace the occasion.”
“In order to finalise the list of invitees in time, you are requested to provide us names of persons from your agency who will attend this function. We also request you to send us a list of your prominent advertisers, on preference basis, so that these clients be invited to the ceremony. Please ensure that your reply reaches us latest by January 09, 2018,” the letter went on to state.