New Delhi, Jan.24: Embarrassed by inclusion of former Pakistan Air Force(PAF) chief’s photograph in a government advertisement on Sunday along with Indian leaders and icons, the Prime Minister’s Office apologised to the nation and ordered an inquiry into the lapse.
The photograph of former Pakistan Air Chief Marshal Tanvir Mahmood Ahmed in uniform appeared along with those of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress President Sonia Gandhi in a full-page newspaper advertisement given by Ministry of Women and Child Development to mark the National Girl Child Day.
In a damage control exercise, the PMO issued a statement saying, "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 PMO apologises to the public for this lapse."
This statement was in sharp contrast to the remarks by Minister for Women and Child Development Krishna Tirath who saw nothing wrong in the advertisement, insisting that the message was more important than the photograph.
Tirath said the "message is more important than the image. The photograph is only symbolic. The message for the girl child is more important. She should be protected." She later told reporters that "if there was a mistake" on part of her Ministry or the DAVP which releases government advertisements, it would be investigated.
Officials said the publicity material for the National Girl Child Day was released by the WCD Ministry through the DAVP after the direct approval and clearance from Minister of State Tirath, whose staff had prepared the text and images for the advertisement.
The advertisement also showed sports icons Kapil Dev and Virender Sehwag and sarod maestro Ustad Amjad Ali Khan along with the former PAF chief with the heading, "Where would you be if your mother was not allowed to be born?" Tirath said the DAVP looks at advertisements "minutely" before releasing.
At the same time, she said no name was mentioned with the photo of the former PAF chief. "It was a photo of an officer in uniform and no name was mentioned," she said indicating that it was issued by mistake.
The mix-up, probably at the Ministry’s end, made the IAF go livid, with senior officers saying that the use of the PAF officer’s picture was a "big embarrassment". "I do not know why they have used the former PAF chief’s picture.
If they had wanted to use the photo of the IAF chief Air Chief Marshal P V Naik, all they needed to do was ask for one from the Air Headquarters," a senior IAF officer told reporters. Ahmed had retired from PAF on March 18, 2009.