The Pakistan Broadcasting Corporation (PBC) is in for some bad news. The PBC, which produces Radio Pakistan, which has, once upon a time, fostered great talents like Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Noor Jehan, Ahmed Nadeem Qasmi, Farida Khanum and Mehdi Hassan, may see its beautiful seven-story headquarters which was inaugurated by Murtaza Bhutto in 1972, and is located in the Red Zone protected by prevailing security, shut down and turned into a university.

This news comes via a letter issued by the Information Ministry where Minister for Information and Broadcasting Fawad Chaudhry directed the persons concerned to prepare a proposal for handing over the Radio Pakistan headquarters on a long-term lease and shifting the PBC headquarters to its training academy located in Sector H-9, Islamabad. The rationale for shifting the headquarters is that the vacated premises will be used to build an international standard university as a series of moves where dead properties in the country could be utilised to generate funds.

This seems like another step forward of the government’s austerity program, where established buildings and properties are converted into public places or universities. The austerity campaign has already received flak for being impractical and for not really bringing any real benefit. This move however merits a higher degree of criticism considering this was not just a ceremonial government living quarters but representation and functioning space of an entire department responsible for radio and broadcasting in Pakistan- an area of media still highly followed by the population, which requires regulation and management.

Before such announcements, the government should carry out proper cost-benefit analysis and make these decisions based on practicalities and functionality. The PBC has around 1500 employees, who will be impossible to shift in a building which can accommodate only about 400 people, putting them at risk of losing their jobs. This decision will not be taken well by either the employees or their trade unions, and in the case their unions attempt strikes, the Ministry might have to take a step back and face the music of yet another U-turn.

While higher education is certainly important, uprooting wholesale a vital government organisation from a purpose built building and shunting them to an inadequately smaller building is not the way to go about it. Re-purposing buildings made for high ranking officials - like the governor house - was also problematic but tolerable; re-purposing a whole department is ill thought out and simply unfeasible.