[This month, the chief executive, Shoaib Ahmed Shaikh, was released on bail after he and more than a dozen others were indicted on charges of selling fake degrees and other counts. Separately, in August, Mr. Shaikh was indicted in a different case related to money laundering.]
By Salman Masood
|Shoaib Shaikh, left, the chief executive of Axact, being led to court in Karachi, |
Pakistan, last year. Credit Fareed Khan/Associated Press
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — A high-profile Pakistani news network, Bol TV, made its inaugural broadcast on Tuesday, more than a year after its planned debut was derailed when its parent company was embroiled in a scandal involving fake online degrees.
Bol TV Network’s parent company, the software company Axact, was caught up in criminal investigations after The New York Times unearthed employee accounts and documents showing that the company was making tens of millions of dollars a year by selling fake degrees and diplomas online and defrauding customers who were seeking education. Axact’s offices were shuttered, and the company’s chief executive and other officials were jailed during the investigation.
This month, the chief executive, Shoaib Ahmed Shaikh, was released on bail after he and more than a dozen others were indicted on charges of selling fake degrees and other counts. Separately, in August, Mr. Shaikh was indicted in a different case related to money laundering.
Despite his legal woes, Mr. Shaikh vowed to proceed with plans for Bol to make its debut, and he has said he intends to start a related newspaper early next year.
Meanwhile, prosecutors in the Axact case have quit as the legal proceedings have dragged on, hinting that they were coming under threat. The house of the former lead prosecutor, Zahid Jamil, was struck by a grenade in September, months after he had left the case but was in talks over whether to take it up again, according to Pakistani media reports. And a top investigator for the Federal Investigation Agency complained of intimidation and harassment related to the case, according to another media report.
After a lull of 17 months, the once-deserted headquarters of Bol TV Network, in Korangi, a suburb of the port city of Karachi, is now abuzz with activity.
In the months before the Axact scandal left hundreds of Bol’s employees out of work, the network made headlines by wooing away top broadcasters and executives from rivals and offering pay far above the usual industry rates. The network’s management said that Bol would revolutionize the Pakistani local news media industry and offer an aggressively patriotic point of view.
On Tuesday, Ali, a media worker associated with Bol TV who asked to be identified by only his first name, said that workers had started coming back over the past month and a half, and were again being paid.
Members of the journalists’ trade union in Karachi have maintained that the initial closing of Bol TV was a major setback for media workers in Pakistan. For months, street demonstrations were organized to protest the plight of Bol workers.
Shoaib Ahmed, who led a campaign against broadcasting limits on Bol TV in the city, said, “From journalists to cameramen, and technical and managerial staff, the announcement of Bol’s shutdown was a thunder strike.”
Zia ur-Rehman contributed reporting from Karachi, Pakistan.