Journal observations

Dear Diary, today is the 91st day of my prime ministership. Time magazine has declared me Person of the Year, Foreign Policy calls me “Pakistan’s Nostradamus”, and Newsweek wishes I could run for the presidency of the US.

All in due time, I told Newsweek. But I am happy that, at the prime of my political career, the world has finally recognised the awesomeness that is me.

As I had predicted, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) did sweep the elections — the patwaris were simply washed away in the tsunami. My Tsunami. Today, the national and provincial assemblies only have PTI, and no other political party. Not surprising, if you ask me. If the results had been any different, the elections would certainly have been rigged.

The so-called liberal “analysts” were bowled out — what they thought would be an analytical half-volley turned out to be a toe-crushing yorker. These drone-loving fake liberals could never tolerate my genuinely liberal greatness, because I am so much better than them in both soorat as well as seerat.

“How would you now finish corruption and terrorism in 90 days?” they asked. “Are you going to do a military operation in Waziristan?” A resounding NO was my reply, dear Diary, because only fake liberals support military operations and I am the only real liberal in this country; Mashallah, that is.

But let me tell you, dear Diary, the Tiger of Mianwali was actually a little worried. Even though I knew that I can never be wrong. I mean, if Imran Khan has said that the Taliban would be taken care of in 90 days, then they will be taken care of in 90 days. After all, who can forget that it was I who had predicted Pakistan’s win in the 1992 World Cup?

One day, as I was contemplating my options, an owl came out of nowhere and landed on my shoulder. Yes, dear Diary, an owl! But this was no ordinary owl. This one had flown all the way from Hogwarts and was carrying a message.

Harry Potter wanted to meet me.

The following day Harry arrived in Bani Gala, riding a broomstick (not kidding)! He told me that during the Triwizard Tournament, when he was listening to the golden egg underwater, he had actually heard the song “Dil nek ho, Niyat saaf, To ho insaf, Kahe Imraaaan Khan!!”. He didn’t disclose this earlier because he was afraid of the Jewish lobby. But now after Voldemort’s death — Yes, dear diary! I am not afraid to say his name — Voldemort, Voldemort, VOLDEMORT!! But anyway, as I was saying, with the death of Voldemort, the Jewish lobby has weakened, and thus Harry decided to make things public.

The next week we called a huge press conference. Well, ‘huge’ would be an understatement, dear Diary, as it was not a press conference, but a press tsunami. Well not even a tsunami; I would rather call it a TSUNAMA! From Roznama Surkhab to The New York Times to the Daily Prophet, everyone was there.

The seating arrangement for the Tsunama conference raised a lot of suspense — we had placed the journalists in the middle, while a huge fenced enclosure was erected to their left, and a dozen empty shipping containers were parked to their right.

I initiated the proceedings and officially asked Harry to rid Pakistan of terrorism. In response, Harry took out his wand and shouted, “Accio Taliban! Bad ones only!” Suddenly the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakitan (TTP) started dropping from the sky and into the fenced enclosure. The army jawans surrounding the fence shouted ‘Hands up!’, and thus the formidable TTP was taken into custody without even a single bullet being fired…! Take that, Najam Sethi!

I then asked Harry to help return the billions looted by corrupt politicians. Again Harry waved his wand and shouted, “Accio Swiss Accounts! Politicians only!” And suddenly the parked containers became full with dollars. They say Zardari was watching it live and had a heart attack when he saw that. I pray for his recovery.

With this done, Harry broke his wand into two and embraced Islam at the hands of Junaid Jamshed. He has been renamed Haris Puttar and is now a member of the Tableeghi Jamaat as well as the PTI.

And this is how I fulfilled my promise to eliminate corruption and terrorism from Pakistan within 90 days.

But that’s not the end, dear Diary, as there are drones to deal with as well. Luckily Superman has also joined our cause. Apparently when he was flying by the moon he heard the chant “Kaun bachaae ga, Pakistan? Imraaan Khan!! Imraaan Khan!!” He said he wants to help us take down the drones. Let’s see how that one goes.

Federal Influentials’ Agency

An exterior shot of the FIA headquarters

“I am bothering you to inform that Mr Tahir Jamil, presently working on deputation as Additional Director, Economic Crimes Wing, FIA Headquarters, Islamabad is my nephew. He is interested in absorbing himself in Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) on permanent basis. I shall be grateful if you please consider his request favourably for permanent absorption in FIA.”

This is an excerpt from a letter that Railways Minister Haji Ghulam Ahmad Bilour sent to Interior Minister Rehman Malik on August 4, 2011. Written on Bilour’s official letterhead, the letter is also copied to the then FIA Director General Tehseen Anwar Shah and shows how the process of deputations to the FIA, and subsequent regularisation of services of the officers on deputation, works or, at least, gets initiated. Those interested in a deputation or regularisation of service approach the FIA’s senior officials through personal connections – in many cases, relatives in high places – to get the envelope pushed on their behalf.
As in almost all such cases, Jamil’s deputation violates the Appointment, Promotion and Transfer Rules, 1975, which say that an additional director can only come from the agency’s internal cadre and cannot be an officer on deputation from some other department. Only in extreme circumstances when no suitable officer is available within the FIA can the position of an additional director be filled through other means; there is, however, no dearth of officials within the agency who qualify for that post, says an FIA official.

Other such sources tell the Herald that, since the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) government came into power in March 2008, scores of officials from various government departments have managed to get deputations in the FIA, mostly in violation of the 1975 rules. Sources say that around a 100 officers have made it into the FIA over the last four years from departments as varied as the National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra), the Senate, the fisheries department, the Pakistan International Airlines, the Employees’ Old-Age Benefits Institution (EOBI) and cantonment boards. Many of these departments are responsible for doing things which are not even remotely linked to what the FIA does as Pakistan’s supreme investigation agency into terrorism, corruption, financial fraud, money laundering and immigration/migration malpractice. The man mentioned in Bilour’s letter as the minister’s nephew originally worked at the National Bank of Pakistan before he joined the FIA on deputation.

Almost all such deputations violate the rule that declares that all FIA posts in grade 16 and above must be filled through a test conducted by the Federal Public Service Commission (FPSC). In some cases, those on deputation do not even have the relevant academic qualifications or the required experience for the job they are holding. This applies in the case of Haris Mirza, the son of the Pakistan Television Corporation’s managing director, Yousaf Baig Mirza. He graduated from the University of Westminster, England, in 2011 with a bachelors in business administration and was appointed assistant director at the National Counter-Terrorism Authority (Nacta) on a one-year contract on April 16, 2012. In little more than four months, sources say, he succeeded in securing the post of assistant director at the FIA’s counter-terrorism wing. The recommendation for his appointment on deputation in the FIA came from the interior minister’s office which wrote a letter to the Establishment Division on August 7, 2012, seeking Haris Mirza’s transfer from Nacta to the FIA. The post he is deputed to, however, requires a minimum experience of five years, according to government’s rules, sources say. The other serious flaw pointed out in Haris Mirza’s case is that his initial appointment in Nacta was only for one year, whereas his deputation is to last for three years.

In many other cases, officials seeking deputation have been able to pull it off because of their influential political links, such as the Bilour-sponsored Jamil. Syed Yazim Ali Shah and Syed Gada Haidar Shah have succeeded in joining the FIA on deputation thanks to their relationship with Religious Affairs Minister Syed Khursheed Shah — the former is the minister’s stepson and the latter his nephew. Syed Yazim Ali Shah was working at the EOBI before his deputation as assistant director in the FIA’s immigration wing at Karachi’s Jinnah International Airport. Syed Gada Haidar Shah was initially posted at the Sindh Assembly, but is now working as an assistant director in the FIA’s counter-terrorism wing.
These two deputations came into the media spotlight in July 2012 when the Sindh High Court heard a petition filed by the United Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, a local non-governmental organisation. The petition specifically mentioned Khursheed Shah and the deputations of his relatives as violating a Supreme Court order issued earlier in the year which had said that all officers on deputation should be sent back to their parent departments.

Similarly, Asghar Ali Mangrio, the son of Faqir Mohammad Jadam Mangrio who is a senior Pakistan Muslim League–Functional leader and a member of the National Assembly, managed to secure a position in the FIA in January 2012 as an assistant director in the corporate crime wing, Karachi, even though his initial posting on December 3, 2010, as a deputy manager at the Export Processing Zones Authority was “purely on a temporary basis”.

The organisational structure of FIA

Aamir Ali, whose mother Shahnaz Sheikh was a member of the National Assembly representing the Pakistan Muslim League–Quaid-e-Azam before she was disqualified by the Supreme Court last month for holding dual citizenship, got his career fast-tracked after joining the FIA on deputation on November 30, 2011. He was originally serving as a grade 19 officer in Nadra and about four months after joining the FIA, he became an additional director of the agency’s economic crime wing. Also, just under three months after securing his deputation, he sent a request to the interior ministry to have his services regularised in the FIA as a “certified forensic accountant”. The request is under consideration.

Such deputations, according to sources in the FIA, are having a negative impact on the agency’s performance. Inexperienced officers working on deputation bring a bad name to the country during their dealings with international and foreign agencies like Interpol, the United Nations and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), says an FIA officer seeking to keep his identity secret. He puts this down to short cuts implicit in the deputation process. “Those who are appointed directly to the FIA through the FPSC have to undergo one year of mandatory training in subjects like policing, investigation and white-collar crime, and laws such as police rules, the Pakistan Penal Code and the Criminal Procedure Code,” he says. “How will a person thoroughly bereft of any such training deliver?” he asks, adding that those who join the agency through proper channels hate to take orders from someone who is not even familiar with the ABC of investigation. “This badly affects the FIA’s performance.”

Others say deputations, out of turn promotions and regularisation of the services of those on deputation hamper regular promotions in the agency, causing frustration among staff hired through regular channels. Some have moved the courts to air their grievances — a few months ago, some FIA officials wrote a letter to the Supreme Court, complaining that “unprofessional officers of various departments working on deputation … [are] causing frustration in the FIA cadre.”

Two cases of fast track regularisation and promotion of officials on deputation in the FIA exemplify why others going through the slower regular process would feel left out. Shahryar Khan joined Nadra on March 1, 2011, as a contract employee. Two months later, he joined the FIA on deputation, and by the end of the year he has been absorbed in the agency as a regular employee as an inspector in grade 16, without having passed an FPSC test or receiving the mandatory one-year training, both officially required for the job.
Nasrullah Gondal’s case is even more curious. Originally a grade 14 sub-inspector in the Punjab Police, he was appointed as an officiating inspector in 2006. Later that year, he joined the FIA on deputation as an assistant director, a grade 17 post, despite the fact that his promotion violated official rules which state that officials on deputation can work only in the same grade in which they were originally appointed in their parent department. In 2008, in another violation of the rules, Gondal’s services were regularised in the FIA in grade 17 and then in 2012, he was promoted to grade 18.

Cases like this are having a serious impact on the pace of regular promotions in the agency. “There are more than 50 inspectors [in the FIA], with over nine to 10 years of experience awaiting promotion to the next grade,” says an inspector working with the agency since 2002. Their promotions are getting delayed because officers on deputation are being regularised and promoted much more quickly, he adds.

While deputation has been going on for decades in Pakistan, what is remarkable is the apparent mad rush to work in the FIA rather than any other department. If we compare the salaries in the Police Services of Pakistan with those in the FIA, we will find that police officers are drawing better salaries, but even they are willing to get deputation appointments in the FIA, says a senior FIA official. Why? Because a posting in the FIA is a very effective means of making quick money, he says, adding that the nature of crimes the FIA handles ranges from petty to high profile, some involving millions of rupees. “An official posted in the immigration or banking wing of the agency, for instance, can make millions overnight.” In his original department, such as Nadra, the Sindh Assembly or the National Bank of Pakistan, he will never get such a chance.

Director-General FIA Muhammad Anwar Virk admits that there is reason for officials to want to become part of the agency: “We have a power-oriented society and people tend to join departments like the FIA to enjoy more power [as compared to their parent departments].” When asked about irregularities in and the impact of deputations, he says, “[Some] FIA officials had reservations over the transfer and absorption of certain people and, in this regard, they have petitioned the court. Now I can only submit before the court as to whether these deputations are adversely affecting the performance of the FIA.”

From the Editorial Desk — Asking the right questions

How do individuals, communities and nations try to cope with adversity? History books throw up answers that are bewilderingly various: short and long, simple and complex, academic and practical, philosophical and psychological, ethical and political. There is, however, one thing common to them all: they are made possible only with the benefit of retrospection. But life, as it folds and unfolds, does not lend itself to neat explanations — the stuff that theories are generally made of. At any rate, the success or failure of humans to overcome adversity does not come about as a result of a single event, or even a series of events, with clear causal connections. It has to be a drawn-out process sometimes consisting of causes and effects, sometimes of causes that don’t produce effects, and of course, of effects that have no causes. Miracles and misfortunes, chance happenings and measured steps all come together in an astonishingly complex manner to make or break individual as well as collective lives.

Pakistan is facing one of the toughest times of its short existence; life in the country has become a freestyle struggle for survival with rule books being torn apart and codes and constitutions being binned and set ablaze. Everyone seems to oppose everyone else and no fault line seems bridgeable by any means imaginable. When we are not sinking, we are drowning; when we are not falling apart, we are collapsing; when we are not exploding, we are imploding. We quarrel within and we fight without, armed by a rage that has long surpassed manageable limits. It is a rage that holds us back — in fact, it keeps us going down a spiral in which we continue touching the same depths of misery and mayhem again and again: dictatorship and democracy and then dictatorship again, war and peace, civil war and military peace, a split and a stitch-up followed by fears of more splits. While the reasons for this rage are as numerous as they are all known, the realisation is growing that we are fast running out of will as well as out of ways to keep it in check, let alone extinguish it. While there is an agreement about the lack of will, there is no consensus on how many of the most-championed ways to do so are either outdated or inapplicable or both.

How can Pakistan come out of such a mess? Everyone and their uncle has an answer — a neat-fitting remedy that can cure all. Without the luxury of hindsight or the assistance of insight, we are throwing up answers even when we do not know what kind of a muddle we are in. Kick all the foreigners out if you can’t kill them; break up with everyone; trash the bumbling politicians; thrash the troublesome dissenters. When the answer is not as inflammatory as the situation it seeks to rectify, it is oversimplified, from implementing Shariah to setting up a caliphate to granting provincial autonomy and promoting arts as an outlet for pent-up passion, nothing seems to ingest the complexity of the situation nor cater to impossible-to-round-off nuances. In an all-or-nothing approach, no one championing such answers is willing to concede and compromise. They are not even willing to invest time in looking at what they are grappling with. Have theory, will implement — regardless of whether it hits or misses.

The ideology warriors cannot be bothered — there is nothing new or more to know; there is nothing new or more to find. Same questions, same answers. What else? Since we already have the answers, let us now find the resolve and the methods for their implementation. Not so quickly. Indeed, many of the answers being peddled by the chatterati have been tried in the past, with dismal results (if religion could keep the country together, then why do we have Bangladesh?). Others have been half-implemented with mixed results (if provincial autonomy is the solution, then why hasn’t it quieted the rumbles of ethnic nationalism in Sindh and Balochistan?). Arts have existed side by side, though very precariously, with vigilantes and witch-hunts but haven’t been able to break the shackles of an elitist ethos. Debates about Shariah law are bogged down by sectarian divides and the caliphate gets little traction due to practical impossibilities as to who will appoint a caliph and how.

Do we really have the answers we need or are we insisting on implementing those which we want due to our ideological, ethnic, political and religious prejudices and predilections? By having gotten it wrong, we are digging ourselves deeper in the deep hole we are already in. Even worse, the walls of the hole may collapse on us and bury us forever if we don’t change course right now.

A good point to start, or restart, could be to ask ourselves if we are asking the right questions and if we are really looking at the right place for answers. Once we start looking for the right questions, we may also soon start finding the right answers. Adversity should enable the best to come out of us — the best understanding of our situation, that is.

Work at your own risk

The site of the Karsaz blast in Karachi in October 2007

Four years ago in the early hours of dawn on a typically hot October day in Karachi, Rashid Ali Panhwer and his colleagues from a news agency met at the Karachi Press Club to discuss their assignment. Excitement was palpable in the air on that particular day as Benazir Bhutto, the two-time former prime minister, was returning to Pakistan after eight years of self-imposed exile. She had eschewed the official offer of flying in a helicopter from the Karachi airport to the mausoleum of Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah where she wanted to pay her respects to the father of the nation and address her supporters. She was to ride a bullet-proof truck at the head of a rally of her supporters to the mausoleum.

For Panhwer, Bhutto’s procession was all the more important because it was his maiden assignment for the newly launched video news service of his news agency. With five days of training, he naively assumed that he knew the essentials of covering such a historic but hazardous event.

“My colleagues and I had been walking all day long covering the rally and were exhausted by the time we reached the Karsaz Road late in the evening. We were three cars away from Bhutto’s truck when the two explosions took place. There was mayhem and carnage all around me and it was incredible for me that I had survived. I hurried away from the scene.  After a while I noticed my wet trousers and realised that I was bleeding profusely,” recalls 32-year-old Panhwer in a calm voice over the telephone. On that fateful night when everyone seemed to be seeking out for themselves, a kind soul helped him reach a hospital where he came to know that a six-inch splinter had pierced his abdomen and required major surgery to fix.

Even though he had risked his life for his organisation and suffered a critical injury, Panhwer found out that his news agency was not ready to pay for his treatment. “Forget compensation, when I called my bosses that night they did not bother to send a car to take me to the hospital,” he says dejectedly.  To add insult to the injury, his employers fired him from his job as he had to stay in the hospital for nearly a month. His superiors might have assumed that he was not going to recover soon and would be of no use to them with his injuries.

Incidents of terrorism, such as the Karsaz blast, have been on the rise since 2001 when the military regime of General (retd) Pervez Musharraf allied itself with the United States in the war against terrorism. Since 2007, not only have they become more frequent but have also turned more lethal, killing or permanently injuring media persons, law-enforcement personnel and ordinary individuals. While the print and electronic media eagerly report and compile the statistical information about these incidents, rarely do they mention the heart-wrenching emotional, physical and financial hardships the survivors and the families of the victims of incidents of terrorism face. (see Collateral Damage and Victims of Ineptitude)

Ali Rizvi, the 32-year-old Lahore bureau chief for a small private television channel, knows from personal experience how traumatic these hardships can be. Less than a year ago, he was a happily married man, content with having a stable job and expecting his first child. On September 1, 2010, his channel told him to cover a religious procession. “I was going towards my office car when a blast occurred. Several splinters from a bomb hit the left side of my body, leaving me severely injured. As people rushed me to the hospital my mind was plagued by morbid thoughts like I was probably never going to see my child and who would take care of my wife if I died,” says Rizvi.

Rizvi’s employer like Panhwer’s did not help him out — instead the government stepped in and gave him 75,000 rupees which covered his hospitalisation bills but were certainly not enough for his follow- up visits to the doctors which continue even today as some splinters are still stuck in his body, giving him health problems.

While Rizvi and Panhwer recovered and rejoined their jobs, Shoaib Siddiqui was not so fortunate. But for the generosity of philanthropists, Sindh governor and his hardworking photographer brother Junaid, he and his family would probably be on the streets.

As a photojournalist for two Urdu newspapers, he was covering the public meeting of the Sunni Tehreek at Karachi’s Nishtar Park in 2006. Late in the evening that day, his wife called him, urging him to return home quickly so that they could go together to the future in-laws of Junaid.

Dressed in blue T-shirt and dark jeans with blood-shot eyes, a slim young short man of 30 years, Junaid came to the Herald office late at night last month, after covering a crossfire between two political parties in Karachi’s Malir area, to talk about his brother. The day Shoaib was covering the Nishtar Park meeting, Junaid was hospitalised due to injuries he had suffered after falling down from the third floor of his house. “I was watching television in the hospital when a news channel started to air footage of the blast at the park. I saw my brother holding his eye and then falling down,” Junaid says in a feeble voice. He then narrates how, after getting a thrashing at the hands of an angry mob and searching the Civil Hospital in vain, he came to know that Shoaib was at the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre (JPMC). “To my relief, I found my brother alive but his one eye was missing,” he says.

With numerous injured persons (more than a 100 people are estimated to have been wounded in the blast), the medical staff at the hospital was unable to cope with the crisis. “I saw nine people die before my eyes. Several hours later a doctor appeared and checked Shoaib.”

Junaid called the president of the press photographers’ association for help. While the former was trying to get in touch with Governor Sindh, friends and relatives showed up and took Shoaib to the Liaquat National Hospital where even the admission fee was an exorbitant 50,000 rupees. “The doctors told us that my brother needed a major surgery to remove splinters lodged in his eye. They did the surgery but could not restore his eyesight,” Junaid says.  Soon they had to carry out another major surgery to remove toxic fluid from Shoaib’s brain.

Shoaib’s employer did not even feel morally obliged to at least call his family and offer help. The government paid them three million rupees to meet the medical expenses which, according to Junaid, were too much for the family to bear on its own.

Shoaib was discharged after three months later. Shoaib is now 46 years of age and is able to move around independently due to intense physiotherapy sessions done at home thanks to the money that Junaid has earned taking up additional photography projects along with news coverage. Shoaib is still unable to go to work and a generous former patron and an advertising agency that looks out for suffering photographers support him financially.

But he is still alive at least. Sirajuddin, a Swat-based reporter for a Lahore-based English newspaper, went to cover the funeral of an assassinated police officer on February 28, 2008. As the 51-year-old intrepid reporter and his sons were offering the funeral prayer along with scores of others, a suicide bomber struck. “We took our badly injured father to Saidu Sharif hospital but a little while later he expired,” says his 24-year-old son Haroon Siraj in an emotionally-charged voice. His family to this day is waiting for a condolence call from his father’s employer leaving aside compensation and financial help.

While such gloomy stories appear to be the norm, there have been some exceptions to them. Take the cases of Mohammad Arif, a cameraperson for a Karachi-based television network and Abid Ali, a cameraman for another news channel based in the same city. Arif lost his life in the Karsaz blast but his employer is taking care of his family after his death. His wife gets his monthly salary and the network has helped her buy a flat. Ali received severe wounds in the same blast but, as he says, “I was fortunate that all my medical expenses were borne by my employer.” Not only that. “For the one and a half year that I was unable to work, I kept receiving my salary regularly.”

As the cases of other journalists show, apparently there is nothing that the two cameramen could have done if their employers had refused to pay up. The owners and managers of most news media firms have singularly filed to cater to the safety and insurance requirements of their staff covering high-risk assignments. Almost all media persons, that the Herald spoke to for this story, say the employers do not provide even a verbal assurance, let alone a written one, to those employed for potentially dangerous jobs. They, in fact, admit that they themselves do not press for such demands, fearing this may deprive them of their jobs at a time of rising inflation and increasing retrenchments in media industry. They do not even want to exercise the option of saying no to a dangerous assignment for the same fear. “There are two people waiting to do your job,” Junaid quotes his boss telling him when he wanted a break from covering dangerous assignments for his newspaper.

Mazhar Abbas, a former secretary general of the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ), agrees that the owners of a large number of newspapers and television stations shun their responsibility of providing medical care and job security to their employees. He also blames the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) and other government agencies overseeing the affairs of the newspapers for failing to investigate the financial status of those applying for the license to start a news channel or the declaration to publish a newspaper. The prospective television channel owners, indeed, give an undertaking to the Pemra hat they are financially sound enough to pay for all their liabilities and responsibilities, Abbas says. He suggests that the authorities should take such media companies to task that fail to look after their staff. Journalist “organisations such as the press clubs have limited resources and whatever they do for the affected media persons and their families is not enough.”

Yet, some of these organisations are taking some initial steps to protect and secure journalists and photographers who cover incidents of terrorism. Press clubs in Peshawar and Karachi, for instance, have introduced life insurance policies for their members. The PFUJ has disseminated a handbook for journalists, albeit on a small scale and that too in English language, which teaches them to secure themselves while on dangerous assignments.

Abbas argues that it is the legal responsibility of the owners of media companies to provide insurance cover and compensation packages to their employees. He says a law does exist that makes all this binding for the media owners. “The law binding the employers is very much there. [It is] called the Newspaper Employees (Conditions of Service) Act, 1973 and talks about working conditions and providing medical care but unfortunately it is not implemented.”

Mohammad Saleem, Principal Information Officer of the federal government, agrees to the extent that “it is the moral and legal responsibilty [of the owners] to take care of their employees.” When pressed further as to why the government does not take action against irresponsible employers, he says, “If we reprimand the owners or devise a check on them, it will be misinterpreted as interference [in the freedom of the media].”

It is certainly not without reason that the glamour of the news media is increasingly wearing thin and, given an option, many media persons will switch their profession to something less dangerous and more rewarding. Khurram Sohail, working with a Lahore-based Urdu newspaper until recently, and Abdur Rehman, a former staffer for a Lahore-based news channel, have done just that. They are now working as a radio jockey and a filmmaker respectively.

 

— Additional reporting by Shahnawaz Khan