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Information possessing integrity may be Pakistan’s most critical missing piece between the feudal (and obscure) and modern (and open). Getting there, unfortunately, may involve the good — the most sound, the most righteous — fighting for every inch of carpet pulled back and curtain pulled aside. Some motivation may come from the polls, some from personalities already in place and fed up with some things they may have seen or that are bothering (leveraging) them personally, but however it happens, the bringing of more things to light, factually and in reportage, in information open to challenge and further investigation, may spell an end to many things.

As regards management, I’m inclined to agree with F. as regards the want of “bigger picture” generalists at the helm, but perhaps the “generalists” themselves need to be formed to fit the ends of the meshing of the various moving parts within their assignments. Getting improvements in Qualities of Living — physically / materially ; psychologically / spiritually — have a foundation in spatial relationships, and as much takes some brights to manage or produce or enable a whole and healthier human ecology.

While the flow and sensibility of my prose may be easily approached, such falls also too often into regions of the mind where it is much easier to imagine a better world, provide guidance to it, and avoid looking at those nasty gremlins crawling around the space and known as “facts on the ground”.

“We talked about ways to confront the dangerous conditions facing Pakistani journalists. It was a bad year: Seven journalists would be killed before 2011 concluded, making Pakistan the deadliest nation in the world for the press. The year before, eight had died.” [1]

Pulled from an interview with a Pakistani journalist, Ayesha Haroon, who was to be subdued by cancer, the statement only hints at how bad the record has been for journalists in Pakistan; in fact, according to the Center to Protect Journalists, some 51 journalists have been killed in relation to their work since 1992, and the coverage of politics, war, and crime account for about two-thirds of that grim news. [2]

The latest, Mirza Iqbal Hussain, caught the second bomb in the combined suicide and car bombing of a billiards hall in Quetta.  CPJ lists two other journalists killed in the same incident and one other journalist killed in another incident of similar “double-bombing” kind.

Fifth on CPJ’s list, Rehmatullah Abid seems to have been directly targeted — “Unidentified gunmen on a motorcycle killed Abid in a barber shop in Panjgur District, about 375 miles . . . from Quetta . . . .” — in relation to his reporting on the Balochistan Conflict.

In such ways, I suppose, “dark regions” remain dark.  (In fact, a “dark region” is an information concept: it could be a thug’s backroom in any city as well as a locale distant from consolidated military and police operations.  It could be a bureaucracy too — any place where the cards cannot be turned up by the public’s “trusted others” — journalists, in general; appointed official investigators who enjoy the imprimatur of a free and informed electorate).

Working down CPJ’s list, one finds possible dual or triple motives for the offing of Abdul Haq Baloch: one journalist submits that Baloch had been threatened by a state-sponsored militant army; another route: rebel armies upset about their exploits being ignored (!); and yet another path: a government cover-up involving missing (Baloch) persons.

From a related article:

“The latest victim of the violence against independent media in the area – Abdul Haq Bloch – was the Secretary General of the Khuzdar Press Club. He was a great source of inspiration for his colleagues and his violent murder has affected his community members quite deeply. The intensity of the panic amongst local journalists can be gauged from the fact that many of them decided to leave Khuzdar along with their families soon after the burial of their friend, Abdul Haq Baloch, in the evening of September 30th.” [3]

Intimidation works, unfortunately, and it takes a government — a very good one — to turn around to face criminal violence, investigate it thoroughly and to conclusion, and to mete out to murderers their name and their due.

(I’ve just sent a note to an associate asking about security in regard to covering government agencies and operations in Pakistan.  I’m looking forward to hearing back on that).

Now continuing to crawl down CPJ’s list, I find myself going back to January 2012, more than a year ago, to find a conventional, however, reprehensible listing of a murder.  Of Mukarram Khan Aatif, a Taliban spokesman said the journalist had been warned “a number of times to stop anti-Taliban reporting, but he didn’t do so. He finally met his fate.”

We in the west expect to read that kind of a statement.

It fits with what we know we know.

Two more stops down (the list is teaching me to set aside the Baloch theater as a separate variable associated with the killing of journalists), one finds a murder more associated with mainstream politics: “Shahid Qureshi, who also wrote for The London Postwebsite, told CPJ that he and his brother had received death threats from men who claimed they were from the Muttahida Qaumi Movement political party, or MQM.”  Faisal Qureshi had edited a a web site, The London Post, that was, according to CPJ, “widely recognized as anti-MQM.”

Also possibly more in context with Jihad vs. anti-Jihad thinking, and, finally, possibly involving the state, this lead packages the murder of Saleem Shahzad: “Shahzad, 40, vanished on May 29, after writing about alleged links between Al-Qaeda and Pakistan’s navy.”  Shahzad had also written a book with a dangerous title: Inside the Taliban and Al-Qaeda; and he had complained about receiving threats from intelligence officials.

Cited Reference

1. Dietz, Bob.  “Remembering Ayesha Haroon, editor who embraced facts.”  Committee to Protect Journalist, February 7, 2013.

2. Committee to Protect Journalists.  “51 Journalists Killed in Pakistan since 1992 / Motive Confirmed”.  Current to January 10, 2013 as I type.

3. Capital Talk.  “The tragedy of journalists in Balochistan.”  October 6, 2012.