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Islamabad, Dec. 7: More than five years after he banned Indian television channels as information minister, Mushahid Hussein Syed, now secretary-general of the pro-Musharraf ruling Pakistan Muslim League (PML-Q), today said the move was unnecessary.

At the height of the 1999 Kargil conflict, all cable operators had been told not to air Indian channels, which the Nawaz Sharif government believed were whipping up war hysteria and 'poisoning Pakistani minds'.

'The Indian channels should not be banned as people of Pakistan are smart and patriotic to understand and sift facts from fiction,' Hussein told a workshop on private media in Pakistan.

Even though they have been prohibited from doing so, most of the 900-plus cable operators and loop holders across Pakistan, especially in Karachi and Lahore, have been quietly airing Indian channels, taking advantage of the thaw in bilateral relations since last January.

'I think what Mushahid Hussein (Syed) said today carries logic, as lifting of ban will signal goodwill towards India,' Nadeem Kazmi, a local cable operator said. He termed this a sort of confidence-building measure.

Kazmi said the ban had never been implemented as the Pakistan Media Regulatory Authority turned a blind eye to the airing of Indian channels. The cable operators did so in connivance with some regulatory authority officials who had been bribed.

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