View from across the LoC: Courage under fire in Pakistan

Retired Lt. Colonel Abdul Rashid from Rawalpindi on veteran journalist Najam Sethi’s outstanding service to Pakistan’s public sphere and his courage against the untenable smear campaigns waged against him time and again.  

It is intriguing to notice an avalanche of smear campaign has come against Najam Sethi. It has come at a time when the electronic media and legal fraternity nexus has come under fire. The quarters undertaking the smear campaign against NS have come to realize that only one individual out of the journalist community stands out for his balanced and dialectical analysis of events in the country, who now must be destroyed.


Najam Sethi

The legacy of General Zia ul Haq’s protracted rule of bigotry, religious intolerance, proliferation of weapons, drugs and ethnicity, and partisanship has come to dominate the psyche of the people of Pakistan. With this psyche one goes whole hog either for or against a person or concept.


General Zia ul Haq

In the contemporary epoch there is almost complete nonexistence of analysts covering both the dark as well as the bright sides of a debate. Najam Sethi appears as a lone odd man out who lays bare the positive and negative sides of the topic in his writings as well as the talk shows. Thus, the smear campaigners develop the concept of a conspiracy theory to vindicate their partisan character. Poor Najam Sethi is quite naturally labeled as a CIA man or a RAW agent and so on. (By the way if he is any such agent, then I too am one). As such hoaxes are mostly untenable, the authors of such conspiracies resort to browbeating by making assertions like – ‘I saw it myself’, ‘so and so is a witness’ and so on.


Zulfikar Ali Bhutto

Mr Najam Sethi  is an eyesore in the eyes of this majority for being an enthusiastic proponent of Indo-Pak rapprochement. Pakistan was defeated by India in all our wars and somehow the lovers of our defense outfit firmly believe that except for 1971 all other wars have been won by Pakistan. For thinking otherwise, Najam Sethi has gone behind bars more than once. He was jailed by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto from 1975 to 1977 for protesting against military action and the illegal dismissal of the democratic government in Baluchistan. He was again imprisoned in 1984 for one month by General Zia without the assigning of any reason. In 1999 he was arrested on the trumped up charges of treason, but actually for exposing corruption by Nawaz Sharif in the Friday Times where he served as Editor-in-Chief.


Najam Sethi’s brand of public interest journalism

Najam Sethi’s scientific approach in his interviews, writings and talk shows is a rarity in the yellow journalism of Pakistan. Mostly the journalism is based on heresy and speculation. Also there are TV anchors whose bread and butter hinges upon leading questions and shoving words in the mouths of guest speakers and analysts. Even with a relatively free media, Najam Sethi’s courage has not been tempered. He remains at the frontline of Pakistan’s public sphere  because over his long career the fight for the truth has remained the same. His brand of journalism invokes fear in the hearts and minds of state leaders who neglect their duties to the public. Democracy is a patient beast, but over time it allows the sentiments of the masses to be realized. But the crucial element to that goal is responsible and unflinching public interest journalism. Najam Sethi stands out with his integrity, courage, perseverance and a commitment to practice that same journalism that fulfills its tradition as the fourth estate.

Watch Najam Sethi’s valuable insight into Pakistan’s socio- political affairs on youtube: