While our entire nation reels under the influence of extremism, with no one’s life safe, our journalists have been at the receiving end of targeted killings and terrorism like all of us. With the mushrooming of electronic media in the last decade, where time and breaking news is everything, we see the number of newsmen increase manifold. With the increase in number, it is all but natural that risks would also increase substantially. With Pakistan under attack from within by the Jihadi monsters created by the Deep State, the law enforcement agencies, the journalists, the politicians and the general public is unable to sift through the risks that face them.
I remember in 1980s and 1990s when Karachi would face “wheel jam strikes” or curfews every now and then, the people who were allowed to move freely for their duties were doctors, milkmen, newspaper hawkers and journalists. No matter how bad a situation, these people would keep on doing their work. What has changed in the last decade is that now no one’s life is safe. No one is immune. Whoever dares, can possibly perish.
In the current year, journalists in Pakistan have faced imminent threats and seen their colleagues targeted and killed. While the recent killing of Syed Saleem Shehzad has at least “united” the journalists (in letter, if not in spirit), there seems to be a motive behind this unity. Punch the government and the military. Demand heads to be rolled, demand for commissions to be made and then keep reminding the general public that nothing has happened. This rigmarole has to continue endlessly only for a new incident to take place and shift focus from it.
Saleem Shehzad’s killing has “united” journalists in letter if not in spirit
Jang Group, the leading electronic and print media publication house in Pakistan, has been running a public service campaign eulogizing the services of those killed in the voice of Zia Mohiuddin reciting Faiz’ “Hum jo tareek rahon mayn maray gaye”:
They have also placed the following ads in their Jang and The News dailies which lists the names of those killed in Pakistan since 2000.
The most glaring omission in the list of Jang Group is that of Daniel Pearl, a correspondent of the Wall Street Journal, who was abducted outside Hotel Metropole in Karachi on 23rd January 2002 and was beheaded on 1st February. The gruesome abduction and beheading was captured on video and released to newsmen. A movie by the name of “A Mighty Heart” is based on the memoirs of his then pregnant wife, Mariane, during those tumultuous days when he couldn’t be located. Pearl was abducted and then beheaded by none other than Omer Saeed Sheikh, who was later arrested, tried and sentenced to death but his execution remains pending appeal under our “independent judiciary”.
In Daniel Pearl’s murder, we see dirty role played by the mainstream media
Coming to the list of Jang and The News, isn’t it unfair that the earliest victim of target killing and terrorism though not a Pakistani, has not been mentioned? Is there any role Jang and The News played in the murder of Daniel Pearl? The mainstream media of Pakistan which in those days comprised of the Jang group, Dawn and Nawai Waqt mainly, portrayed Pearl as a Jewish American, affiliated with the CIA, and even Mossad, who was investigating the clandestine nuclear proliferation network of the Pakistani state.
On 27th January 2002, the front page of Jang, printed Pearl’s photo with an Urdu caption. It said that “Pearl was suspected of being a Mossad agent and of having ‘relations’ with the Indian intelligence agency, RAW.” With the whole nation remains always hysteric about “yahood-hanood-nasara” or “Jews-Hindus and Christians” (the original axis of evil), the revelation of Daniel Pearl’s religious identity was seen as step towards his eventual killing. The entire exercise of stressing on an individual’s religious beliefs and therby making him a target of religious extremists is a despicable practice that must be condemned on ethical, legal and moral grounds.
How the matters were further made worse can be seen from the following paras from the research of Kazim Aizaz Alam:
The Pearl family was upset over this insinuation of the Pakistani press, and his wife, Mariane Pearl, noted in her book that “In this part of the world, it’s bad enough to publicly identify somebody as Jewish. To say he is a member of Israeli intelligence – of the hated Mossad – is tantamount to signing his death warrant. Not only does Arab-Israeli tension fuel the anger, but it is widely believed that Mossad has been supporting India against Pakistan in Kashmir.”
In addition to the Jew-Mossad-CIA-RAW connection, Pearl received further bad press because of the fact that he, along with his wife, was staying in Karachi with a female friend and colleague from Wall Street Journal, Asra Q. Nomani. Nomani was an Indian-born Muslim who grew up in West Virginia. [Pearl, 7] She was staying in Pakistan to complete research on her book.
Being the South Asia bureau chief for the Wall Street Journal, Pearl was based in Mumbai, India. Staying in a house with an unmarried woman of Indian origin meant more controversy for a person of Jewish faith belonging to the United States, especially when he had been suspected of being a Mossad agent by the largest newspaper (Jang) of a conservative Muslim country like Pakistan.
Three days later, on 30th January, 2002, then apex investigative journalist of Pakistan and now doomsayer-in-chief on Television, Kamran Khan, wrote in The News:
“Some Pakistani security officials… are privately searching for answers as to why a Jewish American reporter was exceeding ‘his limits’ to investigate Pakistani religious group [sic]. These official [sic] are also guessing, rather loudly, as to why Pearl decided to bring an Indian journalist as his full time assistant in Pakistan, Ansa [sic] Nomani, an American passport holder Indian-Muslim lady who had come from Mumbai to Karachi with Pearl, [and] was working as his full time assistant in the country. The same group of officials is also intrigued as to why an American newspaper reporter based in Mumbai would also establish a full time residence in Karachi by renting a resident [sic]. ‘An India based Jewish reporter serving a largely Jewish media organization should have known the hazards of exposing himself to radical Islamic groups, particularly those who recently got crushed under American military might,’ remarked a senior Pakistani official.”
It is needless to say that after the publication of conspiracy theories laced with religious bigotry and masquerading as “news stories” in Jang and The News, Daniel Pearl was brutally beheaded.
9 years later, in Khalid Khawaja’s killing we yet again see the dirty role of Jang Group’s journalists
Another character in the story, Khalid Khawaja was trying to play a bridging role in the whole issue. He was killed in May 2010 by the same people who played a role in the killing of Daniel Pearl. In Khalid Khawaja’s murder, Jang Group’s anchor and journalist, Hamid Mir’s name sprung up in taped conversations. The Group announced that they will set up a committee to get detailed information on the issue. Just like all other committees in Pakistan, this committee’s report or findings remain hidden. Khalid Khawaja is dead, Hamid Mir lives without any shame or remorse and continues to have his show Capital Talk on air on weekdays!
So coming to demand of committees/commissions/investigations, whose prime motive is not to find the truth but to lambast the government in all aspects, I think our news publication houses need to look at their own dirty role in the slaying of their own community.
It is also condemnable that the truth gets off to a false start by not acknowledging the earliest instance where a foreign correspondent was abducted and brutally killed by jihadi terrorists just because you planted news about him being a Jew, connected to Mossad and RAW and working against “Pakistan’s interests” which in my humble opinion are not known to even the people of Pakistan!