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Skinning of billboards featuring women resumes in Peshawar

PESHAWAR: As billboard skins displaying images of women were removed in Peshawar last week, the action — reminiscent of the previous Mutthida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA)-led government’s tenure — left advertising agencies and companies counting their losses and feeling insecure.

The Shabab-e-Milli, Jamaat-e-Islami (JI)’s youth wing, set advertising agencies a deadline to remove billboard skins carrying images of women, and on May 2 youth from the group allegedly drove around in a black vehicle and took away the skins, Noor Muhammad, an advertising agency employee, told Daily Times on Wednesday.

“On the same day, the district government also removed illegal billboards from service roads in various areas of the city,” he added.

Noor said the damage to the billboards was hurting advertisers financially. They pay government taxes on the billboards, so the government should give them protection, he said.

The manager of a leading department store in Peshawar, who requested that he not be named, said his company rented three billboards in the main centres of the city and paid Rs 550,000 a year for them.

One of the company’s billboards, at the Gora Qabristan, featured an image of a girl and boy sitting on a beach, before the billboard skin was removed. The company has now put up an image of a mattress with not a human figure in sight. The department store manager said his company pays around Rs 10,000 to 15,000 per billboard skin to the advertising companies.

“We pay due taxes to the government and this kind of behaviour will definitely hurt the economy, as multinationals companies could divert their investments,” he said.

If the government had agreed to the removal of such advertisements, it should have taken stakeholders onboard. It should have let advertising agencies and companies know in advance instead of permitting damages to their investments, he added. During the MMA government’s tenure there was a complete ban on such advertising, and we adhered to that policy for five years. If this government also intends to follow the same policy, it should declare this clearly, said the manager. The billboard skins were removed last week despite the Home and Tribal Affairs Department (H&TA) issuing directives to the district administration to stop Shabab-e-Milli activists from damaging billboards. Meanwhile, Shabab-e-Milli has denied any involvement in the removal of billboard skins, and the district government claimed it had removed only illegal billboards. The latter’s claim is challenged by skinned billboards still standing.

The provincial government has said it has taken note of the issue, but so far no action has been forthcoming. NWFP Information Minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain was not available for comment despite repeated attempts to reach him.
Source: Daily Times

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