The Guardian journalists are thrilled by the images of a David casting stones on the Goliath. However at the end of the day nothing much will happen but the demise of Geo TV. Pak military boasts of a solid middle class base and it is one institution that Pakistanis of all stripes (except perhaps Balochis and MQM followers) admire. Still, taboos are meant to be broken and this unprecedented defiance of the “agencies” may help future journalists in going where no one has gone before.
For decades Pakistan’s
Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence was the spy agency that
could not be named, let alone publicly criticised. The media would refer
only to the “agencies”, the “establishment” or, even more coyly, “the
But in the past week that taboo has been broken by the
Independent Media Corporation, Pakistan’s largest media group, which has
used the two biggest newspapers in the country and by far its most popular television network to daily hammer the ISI.
Geo editors cleared the bulletins for
non-stop coverage of the attempt to kill Mir and the claims by his
brother that the attack on his car had been directly ordered by the
ISI’s normally low profile chief, Zaheer-ul-Islam, whose picture the TV
channel displayed for hours.
The agency, Mir claimed, had been
infuriated by his Capital Talk programmes that criticised ISI tactics
against separatists in Balochistan province, where the military is accused of kidnapping and illegally detaining suspects.
Urdu-language Jang newspaper and its English stablemate, the News,
which like Geo followed up with a daily barrage of attacks against an
enormously powerful agency that has been accused of everything from
rigging elections to backing Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan.
unprecedented – the first time you have the ISI facing off with a media
channel in such a manner,” said Jugnu Mohsin, a veteran newspaper
publisher who has watched the emergence of the boisterous private
television business since the sector was deregulated under the former
president Pervez Musharraf.
opinion is also divided, with many horrified by the unheard of attacks
on an institution that has cultivated an image for itself as a guardian
of Pakistan’s honour. There have been calls on social media for the
government to ban Geo and posters have gone up in some cities declaring
“We love Pakistan army and ISI”.
Although international human
rights groups have reported on the ISI harassing, kidnapping and even
torturing journalists in the past, they say there was simply no evidence
to support Mir’s claims that the ISI was responsible for the attack on
him. Mir has also been threatened by the Taliban, although no militant group claimed responsibility for the Karachi shooting.
see the hand of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman, in the broadsides against the
ISI. The media mogul is the part-owner of the Independent Media
Corporation who helped turn Geo into a powerhouse with its signature
mix of sensationalist storytelling and commentators drawn from all sides
of Pakistan’s political debate…..Rahman is said to be convinced the much-trailed launch
of a new television channel is part of an ISI-backed effort to erode
Geo’s dominant market position.
Others believe he would never have
picked a fight with the ISI if he did not think he had high-powered
support from the government. Pakistan’s prime minister, Nawaz Sharif,
has pointedly failed to comment on Geo’s explosive charges so far, but
did rush to Mir’s hospital bedside in a move interpreted as a strong
show of support.
The army demonstrated its power when it asked the defence minister to send an official petition to the country’s broadcast regulator to shut down the station
for running what it claimed was a “vicious campaign” aimed at
“undermining the integrity and tarnishing the image of state
institution”. Boycotts of the group’s newspapers have been reported at
military bases across the country, while Geo has been dropped by many
local cable providers, which the company claims have been pressured by
Rival media groups have also gone on the offensive. The
Express group has attacked Geo for “running a malicious slander campaign
against Pakistan’s premier intelligence agency”.