ISLAMABAD: The mob that stormed the headquarters of Pakistan Television (PTV) was uncannily familiar with the inner workings of a TV station and made a bee-line for the station’s Master Control Room (MCR) – the nerve centre of the network’s broadcast uplink facility.
They were also surprisingly familiar with the locations of key offices and the central newsroom and news studios located within the labyrinthine building of the state-broadcaster, which is a veritable maze for newcomers.
PTV officials told Dawn that the intruders also harassed station employees vandalised several offices on different floors.
A security official deputed at PTV Headquarters told Dawn around 9:30am, approximately half an hour before the station was stormed; a bearded man approached the security room adjacent to the building’s main gate and issued an ominous warning.
“Be ready. We are coming for you in a little while,” the security official quoted the unidentified man as having said.
“I thought he must’ve been some sort of over zealous protester, trying to harass us, the official said, adding that just after 10am, when hundreds of protesters stormed the building, he was forced to change his opinion.
Upon entering the premises, a team of individuals made straight for the MCR, where they asked technicians to first remove all news tickers that were relaying news of the state broadcaster’s occupation by protesters, at the time.
Following this, the men, who appeared to be from both PTI and PAT, asked them to cease transmission.
“A layman cannot possibly understand the technicalities of transmission so well; they knew exactly what they had to do,” an MCR technician told Dawn, adding that it was surprising that they managed to find the MCR with such ease.
In order to ensure that PTV went off the air, certain individuals among the occupying group asked the staff inside the broadcast facility to deactivate the satellite uplink, while keeping uplink and downlink monitors active, the MCR technician said.
“In my near-30 year career, this is the second time I’ve seen the army deployed at PTV Headquarters,” he said, referring to the coup staged by former military ruler Pervez Musharraf in October 1999.
“This time around, I don’t how long the army will state here, because their presence is felt to be necessary for as long as these anti-government sit-ins continue,” he said.
PTV World Controller Mohammad Owais Butt told Dawn that it was a stroke of good luck that after taking over the MCR, the protesters did not seek to come on-air and make a statement against the interests of the state.
“We were afraid that they might force us to air their own propaganda, but thankfully, they seemed content with interrupting our transmission,” he said.