My father always said ” Don’t speak too much truth its not worth it” in this male dominated society. I always laughed and in my 15 years of journalistic career it seems he was right. He passed away two years ago fearing everyday for my life. The city I love the most was burning everyday, and everyday someone I did not know died in target killing.
So I became the voice of the people but now I am unheard .I tried protecting the rights of the Pakistanis but now my rights are being violated . I fearlessly talked about the better future of my fellow citizens but my future has been compromised. I talked against the ruthless target killing in Karachi but now I am on the hit list of target killers”
World can be difficult life unpredictable but be a woman and to be an anchor and journalist life is threateningly violent in Pakistan and specially in Karachi.
I am in self imposed exile due to serious threats from unknown target killers.The security agencies have asked me to do so. How strange I cant move freely in my own Home land ! Why ? When will this mayhem stop ? how do I celebrate the independence day ? Are we independent ? These questions haunt me everyday.
“I have spent 15 years a journalist and have been doing current affairs shows on private news TV channels of Pakistan but this is the first time , according to law enforcement agencies, I and my family are under serious life threats” Hunt and target a woman.” Not only will this make international headlines but will also tell the world that we are hostage to handful of terrorists these terrorists control our destinies.
“This actually started on 11th May 2013 when Pakistan was witnessing General Elections 2013 and voting for political transaction from one democratic government to another was taking place. As a journalist and host of news channel, I was covering voting process around Pakistan via special election transmission. On that day, I witnessed that, huge numbers of people came out to cast their votes which was not seen in the past. I was jubilant excited and praying “God let there be a change let the Pakistanis decide for a new beginning “.
My excitement turned into my nightmare. I decided to cast my vote along with my old mother and my brother. I went to my polling constituency called NA 250 (DHA girls college polling station) and there I saw crowds of people huge numbers hundreds of excited women , youngsters , girls and boys. Now it was around 2 o clock in the afternoon the polling had started very late in fact the ballot boxes were brought by the candidate himself in custody of rangers. I started talking to the people they were tired and hot and by now getting impatient as the line was huge but the voting was very slow. As a journalist, I entered the polling station forcibly to know why polling was so delayed and slow? As I went inside I saw total ciaos. There was hardly any staff and people were pushing and shoving puzzled what to do.I started surveying the rooms polling was going on in a few rooms but at a snail’s pace and the staff was scared. I asked them why was there so much less staff and why were they taking so much time ?They said dont ask us ,ask the presiding officer who was no where to be seen. I saw one room which was locked from inside, I tried opening it because my instinct said something was wrong as I pushed the crowd pushed with me and we manged to get inside and there I witnessed that polling officer hostage and a few young men stamping fake votes for a political party, Mutahida Qaumi Moment (MQM). I questioned them about rigging but they misbehaved with me and started to run away . By this time many voters had entered behind me and there started a fight I tried stopping them yelling that I am a journalist but the fight got worse and the boys stamping the ballots ran pushing and ripping my shirt and in this total madness my old mother fell. I barely managed to get out and tried yelling for help from the two rangers standing on guard but no one came to help. They just looked the other way and went out . A few men helped me my mother and a few other women get out .Meanwhile, I asked my channel Samaa to take my audio beeper for that breaking news and in that beeper I said whatever I saw at the polling station in detail. I asked for the Sindh election commissioner to intervene and thus began the full fledged words of war between two political parties MQM and PTI which led to protests all around Karachi by night.
“On the same evening, I went to my news channel to do my live election transmission and tried to invite politicians from MQM to discuss the events of the day but my office management stopped me. I was told due to my audio beeper they (MQM) Mutahida Qaumi Movement were very angry. I was asked again and again not to raise this issue from my management and to divert the elections transmission show to the other parts of Pakistan . During my program transmission I was very upset for not being able to speak the truth . The story that really mattered to me now was NA 250. Later that night Mr. Altaf Hussain, the founder and chairman of Mutahida Qaumi Moment (MQM) made very incited telephonic speeches from London in which he talked about killing people and abused the journalists and anchors calling them barking dogs. By now the entire media of Pakistan had focused on Karachi.
The next few days I did shows on Mr. Altaf Hussain”s incited speeches,despite my channel’s go soft policy on MQM . I invited politicians from both the political parties. Heated debates took place and Mr. Altaf Hussain;s speeches were highly criticized by everyone in Pakistan and abroad.
After my last show of the week Governor Sindh, Mr. Ishrat Ul Ibad and senior leaders of MQM spoke gently with me about those shows . The same night Mr. Altaf Hussain apologized for the comments he had made about journalists and anchors. I liked that gesture and appreciated it publicly. Then I left to Saudi Arabia for three days to offer Umrah (The Muslims religious obligation to go to Saudi Arabia and perform prayer) when I came back, the world became different for me” .
“When I came back, I saw huge deployment of the Police and Rangers outside my home, I was shocked the first thought was Oh God robbery I rushed inside and met a scared housekeeper. Thank God no robbery what then ? As soon as I opened my cell phone the first call I received was by SP of my area. He said only one sentence ” Madam where were you Allah has saved you and your family please don’t leave your house I am on my way. ” The Police and intelligence agencies men came to my house shortly. I was told by them that, “they intercepted telephone calls detailing that four target killers had been assigned to target me or my family and made to look like robbery at gun point.” This was shocking I just couldn’t believe it . According to the intelligence reports the target killers had completed their home work to kill me or any member of my family. In official terms their Rekee was complete. The senior officials told me this was no joke but a clear present and serious threat to my life. They said if you were here, you would have been killed by now. I asked them who wants me dead what have I done ? According to all the intelligence agencies reports including CID, IB Intelligent Bureau, ISI Inter services Intelligence all terrorists belonged to the largest ethnic political party of Karachi Mutahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) these reports were sent to the Government of Pakistan on all levels. Before this incident, I have never received any direct threat from MQM let me clear this and put it on record. Every thing I have written is exactly what has been told to me by the Intelligence agencies of Pakistan.
My immediate response was to do two things I sent my brother back to Canada the same night I never felt so relieved before in my life as I saw his aircraft fly into the air. And the second thing I did was move my old mother to an undisclosed location in Pakistan. And then I cried and I cried so much I did not know whether it was pain or tears of relief that my family was safe.“
The next day I went to work moving under heavy security.I immediately tried to contact Mr. Altaf Hussain to tell him what the agencies were telling me, but London office of MQM didn’t respond, though in past Mr. Altaf Hussain use to be in touch with me very often”. Finally I got through to Mr. Nusrat Nadeem member Rabitta committee London I told him everything he listened to me patiently and denied everything. He sent Mr. Wasaay Jalil and Mr.Saif Abbas senior members of MQM to my house to reassure me that nothing of the above was the truth and that the agencies were lying . I was unsure who to believe ? My saviors had become my enemies ! Were the agencies pitting me against MQM to play their proxy wars ? Or was this whole thing the truth ? By now my mother was pushing me to resign.
“I requested help from my news channel (Samaa TV), from the government and from law enforcement agencies but no one was ready to seriously resolve this issue I was told to move in a bullet proof car ! To keep a low profile or rather better move from Karachi . How can I a journalist move in a bullet proof car ? Where would I get a car like that from ? But no one was there to help me. What did I do which compelled any political party to send target killers for me? I was doing my job honestly.
“I was invited by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in energy conference and there without taking the name of any political party, I informed Mr. Nawaz Sharif about the potential threats of target killing at me and my family and that was the triggering point for me and I broke down and sobbed for Karachi. The entire Media was sitting there but the PM had nothing to say he only expressed sorrow at my dilemma . Besides that, I met and informed Interior Federal Minister, Choudhary Nisar and Director General, Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) but my all efforts went into vein” I still seek the truth ? I resigned that day from Samaa as I was dumb founded at their indifference to this whole situation they did not even have a word of sympathy let alone provide any security or help resolve this matter for me.
“I would never leave my homeland and I would never leave my profession, no matter if gangs kill me. Furthermore, I will write a book regarding my experiences as a female Journalist which will truly reveal the real persona of political entities and true colors of the establishment of Pakistan.I am not leaving my country and profession, I lived as a journalist and will die as a journalist. I may not live but my writings will surely live and will keep enlightening people”
“According to UNESCO, After Mexico, Pakistan is second dangerous place for Journalists. Previously, institutions used to threaten Journalists but now political parties and different gangs are involved in the killings and harassing journalists”
I salute the journalists and anchors who raised their voice for me. And above all I salute the people of Pakistan and my viewers who have been a beacon of hope in these testing times for me and my team members Ahmed Khan , Aijaz Khoker and Zeeshan of the program “Tonight with Jasmeen “who have all resigned with me.
I am still seeking the truth.