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A chilling message

Published Jan 19, 2012 02:07am


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THE Pakistani Taliban's claim that they killed Mohmand Agency newsman Mukarram Khan Atif, who worked for Voice of America and a private national television channel, adds a serious dimension to the issue of journalists' safety. Whereas media persons, especially in the northwest, have often received veiled threats from militants, this is the first time that an extremist group has openly claimed responsibility for the death of a journalist. With the Taliban threatening to kill more journalists, those reporting on the conflict have now become major targets to be pursued anywhere, even in places far from the conflict zone, as seen in the case of Mr Atif who was killed in Charsadda where he had moved for reasons of safety. The active targeting of newsmen by the Taliban will not only have repercussions for the safety of journalists reporting on militancy. It will also mean that large parts of the northwest could well become a news blackout zone, with serious consequences particularly in the context of abuses that may never come to light.

Journalists' watchdog organisations place Pakistan high on the 'impunity index', i.e. the country is considered a place where people are not just killed but where the killers arelikely to get away with their deed as well. The state has consistently refrained from carrying out credible investigations or prosecutions into journalists' deaths. In doing so, it has emboldened those that seek to stifle the flow of information. This is not the only concern. The state's tolerance of extremist groups and hard-line religious rhetoric is also detrimental to the war against militancy. As the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan said after Sunday's sectarian strike on a Chehlum procession in Khanpur, 'sectarian violence continues in Pakistan because the cause is usuaHyleftunaddressed.

And it is clear that this happens because nearly all institutions of the state have a soft corner for religious extremism'. The same warning applies to terrorism: unless the state sheds its soft spot for religlously motivated extremism this too will grow into an entrenched, even tolerated malaise.

A warning bell must also be sounded about the risks of glorifying the extremists' cause in any way by other actors, including sections of the media. Objectivity and balance must be maintained at all times; brutality and barbarism must be shown for what they are.

Without this effort, extremist groups will continue to target all those who are vocal about their activities.

Comments (9) Closed

Ronnie Dsouza Jan 19, 2012 12:09pm
So very true, a good article that "unless the state sheds its soft spot for religlously motivated extremism this too will grow into an entrenched, even tolerated malaise". High time for the State Players to open their eyes.
Mohammad Syed Husain Jan 19, 2012 12:58pm
Regret loss of Mukarram Khan Atif as well as earlier of Saleem Shahzad. The provincial government should provide some kind of protection to journalists on assignment but the nature of the job is such that I don't know how this would be possible.
Iqbal Khan Jan 19, 2012 01:08pm
The absence of public indignation and protests against the attack on a Chelum procession in Khanpur last Sunday and the murder of journalist Mukarram Khan Atif in Charsadda is a clear indication of the slow radicalization of the masses which constitutes a greater danger than the ongoing tussle between the civilian administration and the military. The masses, fed up with both inept politicians and the military, are opting for a radical Islamic state which is a recipe for disaster.
Roman Jan 19, 2012 02:21pm
In my opinion religiously motivated extremism is more aimed at helping those under attack in Afghanistan by the 'invaders'. As for Pakistan Taliban, there are different militant groups operating here, including those who are funded by external elements to destabilize the country.
hasan Jan 19, 2012 04:40pm
dear, please dare to name the external factors,,, we should accept the wrong doing instead just finding the excuses...please accept the reality..
Amjad Wyne Jan 19, 2012 06:54pm
It is not about soft corner for this or soft corner for that - a crime is a crime and we all need to recognize that.
shafi Jan 19, 2012 08:48pm
Pakistani population suffers from the syndrome of ' I am alright jack' meaning it does not matter what happens elsewhere as long as I am ok. Penny drops when the same thing happens to him.Pakistan alleges to have arrested many extremists but there are no convictions. Why? All Pakistanis including government functionaries and religious organisations have to vigorously come out against the extremists in what ever shape and form in order to make Pakistan a 'safe' country.
Roman Jan 19, 2012 09:09pm
Bro, the situation is quite complex. It is agreed that religious spirit can be misdirected but I am afraid that the kind of religious extremism we are seeing in Pakistan since 10 years smells of something else. Have we ever wondered why the suicide bombers have been mostly young people (late teens and in their 20s)? And who has been feeding them wrong ideas about attaining salvation in the next world by killing innocent civilians? Do you think our enemies lack shrewdness & plans to create chaos in our country. It is very easy to buy & train hoodlums here, ask them to grow beards so as to simulate a religious get-up, and the next thing is to ask them to brainwash the youth in order to achieve their objectives.
Mohammad Ali Khan Jan 20, 2012 03:36am
Non violent religious fanaticism is the real breeding ground for the violent religious fanaticism. Are Pakistanis ready to face this reality? Are Pakistanis ready for a serious discourse?