Islamabad: Pakistan Government is set to launch a Pashto language TV channel at a cost of Rs 550 million to counter the Taliban propaganda in the country's restive northwest.

'Abaseen' TV channel will be launched by state-run Pakistan Television at the end of this year, officials were quoted as saying by a newspaper.

The cost of the channel was estimated at Rs 160 million in 2006 but has now risen to Rs 550 million, they said.

The government of the restive Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province wrote a letter to the federal government last year to start the channel.

The new venture is meant to counter the "glorification of the militants on private satellite channels," the officials said.

The Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa government's letter expressed concern that militants were freely able to convey their messages on private TV channels while provincial authorities failed to match the Taliban propaganda as they did not have their own channel in the local Pashto language.

The provincial government has pledged Rs 50 million for the new channel and is hopeful of receiving grant from the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Governor.

A meeting between officials of PTV and the Information Department will be held before the end of the month to firm up
a plan for the new channel that will be presented with other
proposals to Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani.

In view of the interest shown by the federal and provincial governments, the new channel is expected to be on
air towards the end of the year, the officials said.

The government is aware of the proposed channel's significance in the face of challenges posed by Afghan and Pakistan-based Pashto channels.

The PTV headquarters in Islamabad has the hardware needed for the channel but acquiring costly software would require funding.

PTV Peshawar's General Manager Hifzul Haq Kakakhel saidhe was prepared to start the channel with the existing strength of 500 staffers and PTV headquarters had agreed to recruit 182 more workers.

(Agencies)