demands explanation from Punjab, Federal Governments: 3 Arrested
Revenge, Musharraf Attacks Struggling Islamabad Journalist, Shuts
M T Butt
Sept 2: General Pervez Musharraf hardly forgets and never forgives
a journalist who asks him a tough question and embarrasses him
publicly. An Islamabad-based journalist who had asked him such
a question three years ago has just been reminded of this black
side of the General’s personality.
In the latest case, journalist Masood
Malik is the target of Musharraf’s unending vengeance. Malik
had put Musharraf an honest question when he had returned empty
handed from the failed the failed Agra Summit with Vajpayee in
is it General, asked Malik who then worked with the Nation-Nawai
Waqt Newspaper Group, owned by the Nizamis, that whenever
civilian leaders of India and Pakistan meet they reach an agreement
and whenever a military ruler is in power, there is no headway
in Indo-Pak talks.
Musharraf was visibly irritated and
annoyed by the question and immediately after the press conference
the Nizamis were pressurized so much that they first demoted Malik
from his position of Chief Reporter and then sacked him from the
Masood Malik would not be hired by
any other newspaper because all newspaper owners knew that Musharraf
did not like the journalist and would retaliate if he was hired.
So after two years in wilderness Malik decided to start his own
newspaper and completed the paperwork in May 2003 to launch “Islamabad
Times” in Urdu language. But he could not do so for financial
or other reasons.
When one year elapsed and Malik’s
newspaper did not start publication, the local administration
recently sent him a letter asking him to start publishing it or
the permission would expire. Malik decided to take the plunge
and mobilized all his resources to launch the paper on September
6, 2004 the national Defence Day, when Pakistan celebrates or
remembers the start of the 1965 war with India, although there
was nothing achieved in the war to celebrate.
Musharraf’s intelligence agencies
informed the General that Malik was now going to become an Editor
and his newspaper will start appearing on news stands within a
week. Dummy runs of the paper have started in Rawalpindi’s
T.S. Printing Press, he was told.
Unable to forget his embarrassment
and displaying the vindictiveness which is the hallmark of small
minds, Musharraf ordered that the newspaper should be stopped,
no matter what the excuse.
Intelligence goons raided the Printing
Press in Rawalpindi on Tuesday, August 31, and asked the press
to stop printing. When the printer demanded an explanation, the
intelligence men, who brought some police officials with them
as well, took away all the newspaper pages and related material
leaving the printer no choice.
Masood Malik went to the police but
he was told that they had “orders from the top”. Malik
held a news conference in Islamabad to condemn the action and
waits for an explanation by the administration.
The Information Secretary, Anwar
Mahmood, told the BBC Urdu Service that he had no knowledge of
the raid on the printer and he was also trying to find out who
had ordered the press to stop printing the dummy of “Islamabad
There have been many such cases when
courageous journalists asked direct, though embarrassing questions
and paid the price, both career wise and physically.
such young journalist was Faraz Hashmi of Dawn who had
also asked a similar question at a televised Press conference.
Just a couple of days later, Hashmi’s car was hit by an
Army officer near his office and the Major came out and started
throwing punches. He was badly hurt.
When Hashmi went to the police to
lodge a report, the police refused to do that. Hashmi persisted
and went to the High Court which did order the police to register
an FIR. But he continued to receive threats and nothing happened
on his report until the BBC offered him a job in London and he
moved with his family to UK.
similar episodes were encountered by Shaheen Sehbai, the Editor
of the South Asia Tribune, when he was senior correspondent
of Dawn in September 2000 and as Editor of The News
in December of the same year.
Sehbai had asked Musharraf in New
York what was he doing about the fugitives, ex-Navy Chief Admiral
Mansurul Haq and Amer Lodhi, the businessman brother of the then
Pakistan Ambassador to US, Maleeha Lodhi. Musharraf was annoyed
and directly attacked Sehbai by asking him to check his facts
Sehbai retaliated by asking him to
state whatever facts he was talking about and do it now. Musharraf
was embarrassed as he could not give one single example of misreporting.
The second incident took place in
December when at a briefing of editors of major newspapers, Sehbai
asked Musharraf why should he be trusted by the nation when previous
generals had lied about their political ambitions. Again Musharraf
was so irritated he never invited Sehbai to any Editors briefings.
In 2002 Sehbai had to leave Pakistan amid a huge controversy.
But when he started his web newspaper
from Washington in August 2002, Musharraf’s vindictiveness
emerged with full force and distant relatives of Sehbai were harassed,
arrested and persecuted by his regime.
is why, when Musharraf appears before the journalists and writers
these days, in closely monitored and secured briefings, no one
dares to put him an embarrassing question or no one follows up
if he refuses to answer any question. Many journalists are scared
of their lives but most of them fear that they will not receive
an invitation again.
the axe has fallen on the still-born “Islamabad Times”
of Masood Malik, even though three years have gone by.
this latest act of vengeance, new Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz
will be the man who will face public embarrassment as he would
be helpless in providing justice to the aggrieved journalist and
his administration will look like a dummy, trying to silence a
newspaper which was still in its embryonic dummy stage.
Paris-based international organization Reporters Without Borders
on Friday, Sept 3, issued the following statement on the ban on
Without Borders (Reporters sans frontières) called today
on the federal government and Punjab provincial authorities to
publicly explain why they had banned a new daily paper, the Islamabad
Times, before it could bring out its first issue. It demanded
the release of its printer, his son and two employees who were
It said it suspected it was a new
move against the editor Masood Malik who had angered President
Pervez Musharraf three years ago.
Plainclothes officials went on 31
August to the printing works in Rawalpindi where the Urdu-language
paper was being put together for its launch on 6 September and
ordered work on it to stop. When printer Malik Abdul Aziz asked
why, the officials left and returned with police who arrested
the four, closed the works and seized equipment.
Editor Masood Malik told Reporters
Without Borders he had obtained all necessary official permission
to start the paper. Officials refused to comment on the ban. Malik
said he suspected the federal government was involved.
its 2002 Annual report, Reporters without Borders wrote:
"On 20 July 2001, Masood Malik, chief reporter of the right-wing
Urdu daily Nawa-i-Waqt, was sanctioned by the newspaper's editors
only a few hours after asking the Pakistani President a question
during a press conference. The journalist asked General Musharraf,
who had just returned from the Indo-Pakistani summit in Agra (India),
if it wouldn't have been easier for a democratically elected head
of state to obtain an agreement with the Indian president. General
Musharraf replied by asking the journalist if "he was joking".
A few hours later, Masood Malik learned that he had been removed
from the newspaper's investigation desk. According to the private
newspaper Dawn, this sanction could be due to pressure from the
authorities, especially the Press Information Department in charge
of regulating the Pakistani press. The Department denied putting
pressure on the editors of Nawa-i-Waqt."