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Pakistan Fires State TV Chief for Caption Saying PM Was in ‘Begging,’ Not ‘Beijing’

A jubilant Imran Khan has already declared victory in the pivotal Pakistani vote
AFP AAMIR QURESHI

Pakistan fired the acting chief of its state-run television outlet this week over a caption during a live broadcast that said Prime Minister Imran Khan was “begging” for money during his recent visit to China.

The Pakistan Television Corporation (PTV) issued an apology soon after it aired the live speech Sunday by PM Khan in China with a caption displaying the word “begging,” allegedly erroneously, instead of Beijing. Reuters reported that the caption ran on screen for 20-25 seconds.

PTV vowed to take “strict action” against those responsible, BBC learned on Monday. By Wednesday, Pakistan had fired the PTV acting chief.

Reuters revealed, “An official Ministry of Information order seen by Reuters said the ministry had withdrawn the services of Hasan Immad Mohammadi, who had served as acting managing director of Pakistan Television for just a matter of weeks.”

Pakistan’s information ministry denied that Mohammadi’s firing had anything to do with the alleged spelling error, claiming his removal was a “routine affair.”

Pakistan Media Watch, a group that monitors media outlets, suggested on Twitter that Islamabad also sacked four PTV staff members in addition to Mohammadi and is investigating three other employees.

The error triggered a debate on social media as to whether it was deliberate.

“Khan has criticized Pakistan’s many international bailouts and decried previous leaders as roaming the world with a begging bowl,” Reuters noted.

The PM traveled to China, Pakistan’s top ally, to seek billions in additional aid to help avert a financial crisis.

BBC pointed out:

On Saturday, China said it had agreed to “firmly move forward” with infrastructure projects in Pakistan following meetings between Mr Khan and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang. During his official visit to China, the world’s second largest economy, Mr Khan also met President Xi Jinping. China has invested tens of billions of dollars in Pakistan in recent years as part of its Belt and Road Initiative – which aims to link the economies of Asia, Africa and Europe via huge infrastructural projects.

Khan has already secured a $6 billion loan from Saudi Arabia but is also seeking Pakistan’s 13th International Monetary Fund (IMF) bailout since the 1980s, expected to be about $12 billion.

Economists believe Islamabad is facing grave economic challenges as it struggles to prevent a financial crisis and keep its troubled economy afloat.

Nevertheless, Pakistan’s Finance Minister Asad Umar on Tuesday claimed that “Pakistan’s immediate balance of payment crisis is over,” adding the Saudi loan combined with unspecified aid pledged by Beijing had shored up foreign currency reserves.

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