M A I N   N E W S

Former Pak air chief’s photo in govt ad
PMO apologises, orders internal inquiry
Ashok Tuteja
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 24
The UPA regime today found itself in a deeply embarrassing situation following the inclusion of former Pakistan Air Force chief’s photograph in a government advertisement, prompting the PMO to tender an apology to the nation and order an internal inquiry into the lapse. The controversy, however, refused to die down.

The photograph of Tanvir Mahmood Ahmed, who retired from the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) in March last year, along with those of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, Minister of State for Women and child Development Krishna Tirath, cricket icons Kapil Dev and Virender Sehwag and sarod maestro Amjad Ali Khan in a full page newspaper advertisement given by the Ministry of Women and Child Development to mark the National Girl Child Week came as a rude shock to the nation. Television channels started playing it up early in the morning, making top Congress leaders and senior officials realise the magnitude of the blunder.

With the Republic Day round the corner, it was felt that the government must immediately douse the fire, lest it causes more damage to its reputation.

A defiant Krishna Tirath, however, sought to deflect attention from it, saying the message in the advertisement was more important than the pictures.

At least one news channel reported that the advertisement was cleared at a meeting at the residence of Krishna Tirath.

The PMO moved in quickly to control the damage this evening. A press release issued by the PMO said it has noted with regret the inclusion of a foreign national’s photograph in a Government of India advertisement. ‘’While an internal enquiry has been instituted, the PMO apologises to the public for this lapse,’’ it added. PMO sources clarified that no approval was sought from the department for the advertisement.

Though the Congress tried to play down the controversy, the BJP was unsparing in its criticism of the government for the lapse. Party spokesman Rajiv Pratap Rudy, describing it as a blunder, wondered how the ministry could work in this fashion. “It is not a minor mistake. This is a major mistake. The government should take appropriate action,” said another senior BJP leader Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi.

But Krishna Tirath was not ready to share the blame for the goof-up. ‘’The message is more important than the image. The photograph is symbolic. The girl child should be protected, that is more important,” she told reporters. The real motive behind this advertisement was to encourage females to become mothers and stop female foeticide.

It is understood that the designing of the advertisement was outsourced to a creative agency attached to a leading media house.

A DAVP official, however, denied any role of his organisation in the approval of the ad. “The ad was given to us on Saturday, a government holiday, and we released it as it was already approved by the ministry,” the official was quoted as saying.



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