By Faheem Amir
During his journalistic career, Saleem Shahzad faced many dangers, threats, abductions and attacks. But no power on earth could break his determination to unfold hidden realities
To kindle the light of truth in an unfathomable darkness of ignorance, falsehood and cruelty is a criminal act of the highest magnitude, one that cannot be pardoned. You cannot sing a song of love, peace, equality and brotherhood in a society where the friends of Lucifer and Mephistopheles are on their mission to asphyxiate the singers of humanity.
History furnishes us with ample examples to prove the veracity of our thesis. Socrates waged a crusade against the prevailing ills of his times. He refused to bow before the false ideas of aristocracy; he became a gadfly for pseudo-intellectuals, selfish rulers and religious persons. The custodians of false idols arrested him and sentenced him to death. Socrates drank the cup of poison smilingly. But his ideas are still alive and flourishing.
Mansur Hallaj, a great Persian mystic and writer of Kitab-al-Tawasin, created a storm of criticism by uttering Anâ l-haqq (I am the Truth). The custodians of religion and the ruling class rose against him. He was publicly executed. They cut him into pieces and then they burnt his remains. But his ideas could not be burnt. They are still alive in the form of Wahdat-al-Wajood in Islamic mysticism.
Spinoza, a great philosopher of the 17th century, was excommunicated by the Jews due to his rationalism and anti-Jewish ideas. He lived alone with his philosophical ideas like a saint and died in solitude like a convicted felon. Today, he is considered one of the greatest rationalists of the 17th century who laid the ground for the enlightenment movement.
In the Pakistan movement, Maulana Zafar Ali Khan, Muhammad Ali Johar and Hasrat Mohani rendered meritorious journalistic services by unfolding the cruel policies of the British Empire and guiding the Muslims towards their ultimate goal of independence. Maulana Zafar Ali Khan, the father of popular journalism in the sub-continent, used his Zamindar newspaper against British imperialism and its step-motherly treatment towards the Muslims. Due to his rebellious writings, he was sentenced to jail many a time but nothing could shake his courage.
Muhammad Ali Johar launched the first Muslim English newspaper, Comrade, in 1911.He also started Daily Hamdard on June 1, 1913. His journalism worked as a bridge between Muslims and the elite forces. He and his brother were jailed from May 1915 to December 1919.
Maulana Hasrat Mohani’s monthly Urdu-e-Moalla combined classical literature with revolutionary politics. Hasrat bore long terms of rigorous imprisonment.
Incessant British cruelties and punishments could not deter these literati-cum-politicians-cum-journalists from their noble cause, and ultimately they won.
In Pakistan, Faiz Ahmad Faiz and Habib Jalib suffered untold rigours of prison due to their ideas and poetry. They raised their voices against dictatorship, feudalism and corrupt rulers. Although their poetry shows a strong sense of commitment to lower-class people, yet it does not lose the artistic beauty and long, rich tradition of Urdu literature. The hearts of the people beat with every verse by these great poets. Their poetry urges action against the class-riddled system. The corrupt elite class and feudal lords have not been able to check the revolutionary messages of these two poets.
Pakistan is passing through very tumultuous times. Nobody feels secure as the ‘war on terror’ has played havoc with our society. Brave Pakistani journalists are rendering their professional duties without any fear in these precarious times.
While performing their duties, many journalists have sacrificed their lives. According to a study by the Committee to Protect Journalists, 42 journalists were killed around the world in 2010 and Pakistan was the deadliest country of all. The media advocacy group Reporters Without Borders also says that 57 journalists, including 11 Pakistanis, were killed. According to South Asia Media Commission (SAMC), 13 journalists have been killed in Pakistan in 2010.
These gloomy figures not only show the grave danger under which a Pakistani journalist works but also shed light on the matchless commitment and prophetic zeal to unmask corruption, hidden realities and games of interest of the various political, religious, civil, military and social groups.
Another renowned journalist, Saleem Shahzad, has been murdered. Unknown assailants abducted him on Sunday evening from Sector F-8 in Islamabad when he left his home to join a programme for a private TV channel. His body was found near Mandi Bahauddin on Tuesday. Post-mortem reports reveal signs of severe torture on his body including the face and abdominal area. The doctors also mentioned that a number of his ribs were broken.
Saleem Shahzad was a brave and professional journalist who was waging a crusade against the prevailing ills of our society. He followed in the footsteps of Socrates, Mansur Hallaj, Maulana Zafar Ali Khan, Muhammad Ali Johar and Maulana Hasrat Mohani in the field of journalism and life.
During his journalistic career, Saleem Shahzad faced many dangers, threats, abductions and attacks. But no power on earth could break his determination to unfold hidden realities. In 2006, he was kidnapped by the Taliban in Afghanistan. His kidnappers accused him of being a spy but set him free after seven days.
On August 6, 2010, Saleem Shahzad had a narrow escape when the security guard of a club in Islamabad shot him. Saleem Shahzad stated that this was an attempted murder. He was an expert in investigative reporting. His last breaking story appeared in Asia Times Online on May 27 about al Qaeda’s alleged infiltration into the country’s navy. He disclosed that al Qaeda carried out the PNS Mehran attack to avenge the arrest of naval officials on suspicion of al Qaeda links. He had told Ali Dayan Hasan, senior South Asia researcher at Human Rights Watch, that he feared the country’s intelligence agencies planned to retaliate against him over his story about the militant infiltration. “The other day he visited our office and informed us that the ISI had threatened him. He told us that if anything happened to him, we should inform the media about the situation and threats,” Ali Dayan Hasan told AFP. Two days after the publication of this story, he was abducted and later murdered. Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani has ordered an inquiry into the kidnapping and murder, pledging that the culprits would be “brought to book”.
Saleem Shahzad has been murdered but his ideas about freedom of expression and awareness cannot be killed. His death urges us to speak in the words of Faiz:
“Speak, your lips are free.
Speak, it is your own tongue.
Speak, it is your own body.
Speak, your life is still yours.
See how in the blacksmith’s shop
The flame burns wild, the iron glows red;
The locks open their jaws,
And every chain begins to break.
Speak, this brief hour is long enough
Before the death of body and tongue:
Speak, ‘cause the truth is not dead yet,
Speak, speak, whatever you must speak.”
Source: The Daily Times, Pakistan