Pakistani Media on Extremism: Time to Draw a Line

Imdad Soomro
Imdad Soomro

What Sindhi Press Says:

People who can not read Sindhi media have no idea what Sindhi press is writing, I have noticed lot of good stuff is being published in Sindhi media. Here is one such article by our noted journalist & columnist Imdad Soomro, who is in charge of Sindhi newspaper daily Ibrat’s editorial page. It may give you some idea of Sindhi media. Imdad Soomro can be reached at

Media on Extremism: Time to Draw a Line

By Imdad Soomro, Hyderabad, Sindh

Please note: The following article has published in one of the most influential & widely acclaimed Sindhi daily of Pakistan.Daily Ibrat on September 30, 2008

Courtesy and Thanks: Sindhi Daily Ibrat

In the post-Musharraf era of Pakistan when a pro-people ruling class is governing the country and fighting a war against terrorism, the Pakistani writers, opinion makers and media men seem to be divided in two clear camps, the issue of terrorism is so serious in our country that it is no more a concern only of government, or of one party, or a particular group. Hosts and anchorpersons, of course, in this age of electronic media influence a lot to common people, at the same time bizari propegenda of extremism is also being countered and responded.

A large portion of Urdu Media, both print and electronic, is calling Taliban as ‘forces of resistance and heroes’, the Right-Wing which had found a new direction after the collapse of Soviet Union, they have found their new allies who apparently are moderates and prescribe to liberal ideas but while writing on ‘national sovereignty’, FATA situation, American involvement and aggression, tend to tilt towards extremists’ line.

A recent case of a Geo TV’s anchor person and leader of MQM, who hosts a religious program called “Aalim online” Mr. Aamir Liaqat who has been fired by his party for toeing to religious lines, but the TV channel is still keeping his job intact. In his talk show in incited a religious sect of Muslims called “Ahmadis” which resulted in murder of one Ahmadi in southern city of Sindh province Mirpur Khas.

It is strange to note that even Sindhi media remain silent over killing of a citizen. Even civil society, NGOs and writers remained silent over publicly tortured and murdered citizen of our land. Perhaps NGos had not got any project to raise their voice of protest over this killing.

It is shame for any society to identify citizens on the basis of his religious identity.  As on September 26, Robert Fisk wrote in a UK based newspaper “Independent-UK” about Aljazeera journalist Sami Al-Haaj, in this profile and interview of journalist, Fisk has written “his story is both matter of shame and source of honour” the journalist was arrested and kept at Bagram airbase for six years, where was he put into solitary confinement and tortured, but despite pressures the journalist refused to be a spy for American troops. Robert Fisk adds. “Sami Al-Haaj refused to work for British intelligence on the ground that If he works for American intelligence, Al-Qaeda will kill him, if he does work for you, you will kill him”. It means a moderate person can save himself from both forces, but despite this the healthy voices have not stopped from appearing and defending moderate values.  Dr. Ayesha Siddiqa, in her recently written bold article regarding above mentioned TV host that “when a party cannot afford him, why a tv channel is still keeping him?”. Her article written on “Threat to State” she has clearly written about two divided minds “ It is right that State declares Ahmadi sect as non-muslims but how can civil society, media and writers remain silent over killing of an innocent citizen.”, “It is heartening to know that MQM has fired this anchor from party but where are those voices who in past have been raising voice for freedom of Media?”.

Ayesha has raised very important question, does the freedom expression not be mindful of a person’s life and security, it is very sad to notice that the management of that TV channel is not firing either producer or host of the said program.

She further writes that “It is very disappointing to note that media which considers itself champion of democracy and freedom of expression, but they remained silent in this crime, MQM: a kind of party that is considered often problematic, fired its former federal minister but media guru is silent, The US government who often raises its concern on variety of issues, did not utter a word because they are in partnership with geo tv.”

This is important to note that Ayesha Siddiqa, who is very credible and respected writer, comes up openly with an allegation on Geo TV of partnership with America because she believes that this is not merely a murder of two people but reflects on intolerance trend in society.

On Same day, Friday, September 26, another article entitled “Jihad revisited” published by a professor of Physics and Environment Qazi Essa Doudpoto, which is basically comments and refers to a book written Dr. Afzal  whose real name is Syed Imam ul Sharif. Dr. Fazal was a companion of Aiman alzwahri and was a member of Alzawahri’s terrorist group called “Al-Jihad”. The book talks about Jihad. Aiman Zawahri and Dr. Fazal are considered founders of Al-Qaeda and both had met with Osama Bin Laden in Peshawar, for quite long time he had lived in Peshawar and used to provide medical help to injured Al-Qaeda militants.

In 1989, several associates of Al-Jihad had moved to  Sudan, while Dr. Fazal wrote this 1000 thousand page book called “Compendium of Pursuit of Divine Knowledge” but the carried name of writer as Aiman-Al-Zawahri, which mainly floated the idea that ‘Muslims must fight non-Muslims at all cost and every condition.”

The article adds: “In 1997 Egyptian government held talks with several Islamic groups, Aiman Al-Zwahri was aware of this, it disappointed him because several of his old colleagues no more believed in violent Jihad. The loyalists of Zawari planned acts of terror to foil the reconciliation talks between Islamic Groups and Egyptian government, thus in a terrorist act 60 tourists were killed in area near Laksoor. The Islamic group condemned these killings, dissociated themselves with this terrorist activity, wrote pamphlets, which later were published in the name of “The Revision”. In these writings a new thinking is presented and promoted , the group leader Zahdi sought public apology from people of Egypt behalf group’s past terrorist activities, in return Egyptian government released some twenty thousand prisoners belonging to this group from various prisons

Dr. Fazal was brought secretly from Yeman to Cairo where he wrote his last book “Rationalizing Jihad” in 1995. All members of Al-Jihad agreed to script of this book and signed on it. He presented following important points in the book: 1. A person cannot be killed or deprived of his property on the basis of his religious belief, 2. Jihad has several restricts which one has to abide, 3. Killing is not allowed, A Muslim cannot  kill an innocent Christian or Jew, 4. Discriminate destruction of civilian infrastructure, hotels, buildings, roads and public transport cannot targeted, 5. Inflicting pain and damage to any one is not sanctioned in any religion, 6. No one is eligible or authorized to decide as how is Muslim or non-Muslim, 7. The believe in life-hereafter does not justify violent objectives, etc.

The excerpts quoted by Qazi Essa Doudpoto actually gives a valid suggestion to Pakistani government who is busy in fighting extremism and terrorism that this book should be published in all languages and should be taught in religious schools and other educational institutes. He ends his article on this hope that this book could play a part in reforming religious school.

Another progress and very intelligent writer and columnist  Irfan Hussain in his weekly column entitled “In the name of Belief” has written that “TV host Aamir Liaqat Hussain’s cangero court, which was presided by himself, was seen making angry gestures through hands and did not stop any of guests when they were inciting and instigating people for killing and murder.”

Irfan Hussan writes with deep disappointment:

“When private channels were opening up I had great hopes that they will greatly influence the political and social landscape of the country, with the power of media, they lead the process of change in society, and there is no doubt that several channels challenged politically-ridden Pakistan’s establishment, but these media outlets have not even raised questions to religious intolerance and inequality in our country. “

For many analysts and anchor person, the freedom of press means free hand to attack ruling party, that is not really so hard to do, the real challenge before media is to question and challenge the outdated ideas and values being practiced in society.  If they want to live in 21stcentury like us, why do not they oppose Taliban openly? Actually their old hatred to America has blinded them and they think these fundamentalists are threat to America; they seem to believe that one day American troops will leave Afghanistan and thus they will achieve peace in the region.

Irfan Hussain writes “ Wake up and sense the danger, Taliban want do nothing accept imposition of their ideology, they won’t accept any difference of opinion, neither any criticism on their government, nor will tolerate free media, and our anchor person are making Taliban task easier.”

Another article on by S.M. Shahid has appeared on ‘Brain Drain’ in Dawn’s Sunday Edition that says “when I watched some ministers talking on tv, I switched off tv, I left myself with mystical free mind, perhaps that is luxury that one can avail these days”.

My Lord, it is right formula, to leave yourself to lay down on sofa and bad with empty mind, but the good news is that if conservatives and extremists are in majority but then there is no dearth of braves voices to counter them.

(Published in one of the Oldest Sindhi Language Newspaper Daily Ibrat on September 30, 2008)

Courtesy and Thanks: Sindhi Daily Ibrat

By using this service you agree not to post material that is obscene, harassing, defamatory, or otherwise objectionable. Although IAOJ does not monitor comments posted to this site (and has no obligation to), it reserves the right to delete, edit, or move any material that it deems to be in violation of this rule.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s