U.S. Stops Funding Pakistani Version of 'Sesame Street'
LONDON - The U.S. government has ended its financial support for a Pakistani version of Sesame Street, the Associated Press reported.
It said the decision to pull funding support for the $20 million project comes amid allegations of financial irregularities by the Rafi Peer Theater Workshop, the local puppet theater troupe that developed the show with the Sesame Workshop.
The Pakistani show, called Sim Sim Hamara, or Our Sim Sim, includes Sesame Street favorites, such as Elmo, and original Pakistani characters. Among them are a girl named Rani who loves cricket and traditional Pakistani music and Munna, a boy who loves numbers and playing Pakistani bongo drums.
The show first aired in December and was scheduled to run for at least three seasons, the AP said.
The U.S. hope was to use the show to improve education in Pakistan and increase tolerance amid the prevalence of radical political views.
The AP quoted a spokesman for the U.S. embassy in Pakistan as saying that the U.S. Agency for International Development had terminated its financial support for the TV program. But he declined to provide further details.
Citing sources, Pakistani newspaper reported that Rafi Peer representatives used U.S. money to pay off old debts and award lucrative contracts to relatives, according to the AP.
COO Faizaan Peerzada denied the corruption allegations. He said the U.S. ended its participation after providing $10 million amid a lack of additional available funds.
The AP said Rafi Peer plans to look for alternative sources of funding for the local version of Sesame Street.