Yousuf Raza Gilani, the PPP-Z appointed prime minister, it seems is as much a victim of his own government as is the common and ordinary citizen, but of course in a less lethal way. His own government merely projects him to the beloved awam as inept and somewhat tongue-tied. This happened on the night of July 19 when some bright spark saw to it that in the non-fitness of things the prime minister should address the nation, the reasoning behind this being unclear as he really did not have too much to say to the hapless nation. He had little to offer other than the usual platitudes and statements that have been made umpteen times by his misguided minions. So, from the point of view of content his address was sadly a non-event " just the usual bromide dished out to a nation in waiting. It was not, again sadly, a non-event from the entertainment point of view. The nation, or however many representatives of it stayed awake to watch his sporadic appearances, were given something to chuckle about. However, the stop-start fiasco was hardly in keeping with the supposed dignity of the prime ministerial office. Gilani must have our sympathy for his predicament. He did not deserve to be made a scapegoat because of the petty differences between a ministry and one of its departments. This just raises once again the issue of the information ministry, that expensive redundant department of government which should not exist. From its very inception, the ministry has been damaging to whichever government has been in power. It has even been known to assist in bringing down governments. It has never served a positive purpose, its influence has for ever been negative and baneful. And now that it cannot manage to deal with a prime ministerial address to the nation perhaps someone, the minister being the most apt judge, should acknowledge that it is but a millstone around the neck of an already overloaded machinery of government. The buck has to stop on the information minister's desk, whether or not the minister likes it. PTV, the government's private channel, is in a subservient position and if the managing director of the government channel and the minister in charge cannot get on they should at least professionally, when it comes to the prime minister, be able to put their squabbles aside and get their act together. But given the circumstances, one must suppose that the incident of the prime ministerial address is merely symptomatic of the state of paralysis and non-governance that predominates in the PPP-Z. What purpose does the ministry of information serve? No one needs it, certainly not the prime minister who should have a professional and competent press secretary with a limited staff to deal with all his PR matters rather than an entire unwieldy ministry. No other ministry needs it as most of them have their own spokespeople. No one really needs it other than the media people who are on the take or make, the paid "article writers" who adorn our press and some pliant interviewees on the electronic media. It, of course, also arranges for media people to participate in the costly world tours in which our various leaders indulge themselves. Taxpayer money should not be used to finance private media representatives, their own publications or channels should foot the bill for their travel and for their stay abroad. There is no reason at all that this poor struggling country, with the economy where it is, should be saddled with paying for holidays abroad for officials of the ministry of information and for its pet media personnel. The government of Pakistan should follow the example of the USA which pours into the country millions of dollars to keep it going. When the US president travels various news organisations pay the equivalent of a first class fare to the US government for journalists who travel with him on Air Force One, and these journalists also pick up their own tabs for living and other expenses whilst abroad. The government pays no hotel bills, nor does it dish out daily allowances, nor does it hire Limo's for them to move around. It is high time that our government policies are turned upside down when it comes to the media and official tours. Amazingly, the ministry of information and the Pakistan embassy in Washington are at odds when it comes to restrictions on the number of media people to be taken on this latest outing. Sensibly, the embassy suggested that the scheduled number of 40 media freeloaders be radically slashed. The ministry's response was a leak to the media to the effect that the embassy was "creating hurdles for the private media to accompany PM's entourage to USA." One can only hope that the hurdles have held fast. It has been whispered that in a previous existence, MNA Sherry Rahman, now sitting atop the ministry of information, did express the view that the infomin should not exist, that it was redundant to any positive needs. Hopefully, ticked away somewhere inside, she still holds this view and under her aegis she will see to it that the ministry is disbanded and done away with, thus doing a great service to the country and to its governments to come. The writer is a freelance columnist E-mail: arfc@cyber.net.pk