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Pakistan a hard country for independent journalism: Mazhar

By Our Correspondent
December 06, 2020

KARACHI: Senior journalist Mazhar Abbas says Pakistan is a hard country for independent journalism, as around 125 media persons have lost their lives in the line of duty so far.

He was speaking at the launch of his book, Aur Phir Yun Hua, on the third day of the International Urdu Conference, under way at the Arts Council of Pakistan currently. The session was moderated by Anjum Rizvi in which senior journalist Suhail Warraich and the writer, Mazhar Abbas, talked about the book, which is a compilation of the latter’s columns and analyses.

Abbas said: “We have seen a great difference in the work of journalists before they disappeared and after they returned.” He said he had written his pieces and analyses mainly on the basis of his field reporting. “In Karachi, I have covered ethnic and sectarian riots where hundreds of people were killed in a single day,” he said.

He remarked that he did not see the return of Nawaz Sharif to the country’s practical politics. “But the credit also goes to the PML-N that the party’s vote bank is still intact.” Abbas said the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) had spoiled the votes of the MQM in Karachi and the PML-N in Punjab and there was a need for a careful analysis of the factors behind the TLP’s emergence.

Discussing the challenges the media faces, Abbas said the establishment had realised in 2007 that the media and judiciary were becoming more independent and at that time, policies were made to control them and curb their freedoms. Mazhar Abbas said his book offered readers insight on various issues, such as problems of Karachi, assassination of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, politics of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, dynastic politics, civil-military relationship and pre-poll political engineering.

“It is unfortunate that we did not learn lessons from history and forget the important developments of the past. We are still experiencing the same affairs that were experienced 70 years ago,” he said. “Most anchors and columnists in the country still criticise democracy, but I have to tell them that they can only write such columns in dictatorships against democratic governments, and not against dictators,” he added. Citing one of his columns on the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), Abbas said that he had realised after the speech of Altaf Hussain on August 16, 2016, that the return of the political party was impossible then.

“Political parties still operate but today neither is the MQM in its original shape nor are the Pakistan People’s Party and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz at their older positions,” he said.

Suhail Warraich said the writings and columns of Mazhar Abbas help readers understand the complexities of Pakistani politics. He said that in today's age where we do not have influential mediums of literary magazines and radio channels, columns are the main source of political messages and commentaries. “Journalism is the first and rough draft of history and literature embodies the conscience of the era,” he said. “Similarly, today's columns help identify sensibilities and genuine pictures of the contemporary era.”

Citing a column of Abbas about a conversation with a general, Warraich said that particular piece was apparently suitable for a banner-head story on the front page. “But he toned out the piece in a skilful manner that provided all the information, omitted its sensitiveness, and also managed to publish it. Otherwise, if it would have been a news story, it would probably have not been published because of the sensitive information it had.” The journalist said that two qualities distinguished Abbas from the others — standing firm on his principles and avoiding going to the extreme.