PMO sorry for advertisement featuring ex-Pak air chief’s photo
The photograph of a retired Pakistan air force chief in an adverstisement commissioned by the Women and Child Development Ministry caused a major embarrassment to the Centre on Sunday, following its publication in a newspaper currently on a joint “peace campaign” with a Pakistani daily.
The faux pas, two days ahead of Republic Day, is bound to make heads roll in both the ministry and the Directorate of Advertising and Visual Publicity (DAVP) as a red-faced Centre was forced to offer an apology for the appearance of the ex-PAF chief’s photograph in the advertisement.
Even though Women and Child Development Minister Krishna Tirath remained unapologetic and sought to downplay the incident by saying the message in the advertisement marking the National Girl Child Day was more important that the photograph, both the PMO and the Indian Air Force are understood to be fuming at the faux pas. Late on Sunday evening Tirath apologised, saying it was a mistake.
The Opposition too used the controversy to attack the government, even as the ruling Congress sheepishly termed it a goof-up. BJP leader Rajiv Pratap Rudy sarcastically asked if the photograph reflected any change in the UPA government’s thought process vis-ŕ-vis Pakistan.
The advertisement carrying the image of former PAF chief Tanvir Mahmood was issued by the DAVP, an I&B Ministry wing, and was cleared at the ministry’s “highest level”, government sources said. There were conflicting views on whether Tirath’s staff or a creative agency associated with a media house had created the advertisement.
Interestingly, the advertisement was carried in only one prominent English daily published from here. The daily is currently carrying out a joint “peace campaign” with a newspaper from Pakistan.
All other newspapers in the capital carried a different advertisement to mark the day.
The controversial advertisement, carried as a “consumer connect initiative” package to mark the day by the newspaper, has the retired Pak air chief’s photograph along with those of Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh, UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, Tirath, cricketers Virender Sehwag and Kapil Dev and Sarod maestro Ustad Amjad Ali Khan along with his sons Amaan and Ayaan.
The half-page ad is a campaign against female foeticide with the tagline asking, “Where would you be if your mother was not allowed to be born?”
Even as the hunt was begun by the PMO to fix responsibility, with sources saying that heads were likely to roll in both Tirath’s ministry and DAVP, the minister herself remained nonplussed and refused to accept any blunder on the part of her ministry.
“The message is more important than the image. The photograph is only symbolic. The message for the girl child is more important,” she said striving hard to downplay the incident. She also said that no name had been mentioned below the photograph, and added, “We are anyway for global peace.”
But the PMO was in no such mood. It swiftly apologised to the nation for the blunder and instituted an internal inquiry.
“The Prime Minister’s Office 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 Prime Minister’s Office apologises to the public for this lapse,” a PMO statement said.
IAF sources termed the development as a “big embarrassment”.
Meanwhile, the blame game has already begun, with the DAVP trying to wash its hands off the matter. While nobody came on record, sources in DAVP claimed the advertisement, numbered “DAVP 46101/13/0064/0910” came to the department on Saturday with prior approval from the Women and Child Development Ministry, and, therefore, was released immediately.
The sources also conteded that the text and images in the advertisement had been prepared by Tirath’s staff.
Tirath, however, said, that an investigation would be done to find out whether the mistake was committed by her ministry or the DAVP but added, “DAVP looks at advertisements minutely before releasing them.”