Pakistani Journalists Under Fire

By Mira Sethi

A recent Taliban hit list named 15 journalists, including my father and TV anchor Raza Rumi. On Friday, assassins came after Rumi.

On Friday, Raza Rumi, a well-known TV anchor on Pakistan’s Express News, narrowly escaped an assassination attempt in the center of Lahore. His driver, shot 11 times by two gunmen, died at the hospital.

Raza, a friend, had just left the television studio when two men on a motorcycle rode up next to his car, unleashing a volley of bullets. Raza was sitting in the back seat, and he plunged his body onto the floor.

“The tragedy is that the state cannot protect us,” Raza told me. “I should say, if the state doesn’t kill you, nonstate actors will.” It made me think: In the good old days, repressive governments bullied, blackmailed and imprisoned journalists. But at least you got out alive.

In modern Pakistan, the government is immobilized by a clutch of sectarian organizations and terrorist groups. This is a Pakistan in which one of the most popular politicians, Imran Khan, labels those who want the government and army to fight the Taliban, like those on the hit list, as “American agents” who are “dollar-fed.”

In recent months, as the liberal (as in nonsectarian) Pakistani media have closed ranks against the Taliban, the media have been threatened and attacked. The Taliban, who obsessively monitor opinion and news content, know exactly who speaks out loudest against them. Raza is one of these people. He is a “liberal”—a term almost uniformly used as a pejorative in modern-day Pakistan.

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