Life threats disrupt newspaper distribution system
Out of the blue, a new and unique phenomenon has emerged in Pakistan’s troubled province, adding another dimension to the country’s dubious media record. The usual drill practiced by overzealous watchdogs is to pick up recalcitrant journalists, keep them in protective custody for a while, and rough them before releasing them, hoping they would be sadder and wiser men. Yesterday, a correspondent of an English daily was beaten by iron rods-wielding men, in public vie wright in Islamabad. This is too much
In Balochistan, as yet unknown actors a couple of days ago warned newspaper offices of disrupting their circulation on the rather fascist reasoning that statements regarding their activities (or rather outrages) were not carried by local newspapers. In such cases, suspicion usually falls on the Baloch separatists, whose foreign- backed pastime of attacking security personnel and civilians cannot be reported in detail since that carries the risk of losing the government’s goodwill, meaning advertising. The dirty trick worked, as the frightened newspaper hawkers refused to deliver newspapers in Quetta, and transporters to carry these to other places in the province, despite the DIG, Quetta’s assurances of security. Since Wednesday, Balochistan is without the facility of local and national dailies.
Considerably ratcheting up the stakes, a grenade was lobbed at the office of a newspaper agency in Turbat, leaving eight injured. The Hub Press Club was also similarly targeted, while in restive Awaran district, militants firing in true Hollywood thriller fashion, burst the tyres of a vehicle ferrying newspapers, and then burned the lot. The Balochistan Liberation Front has disavowed responsibility for these happenings, which however might not stand a closer scrutiny. Friday also saw the death in a bomb blast of a local ANP leader and his brother, as also an IED blast on a remote railway track near Bolan that wounded six passengers. A way must be found around this prolonged impasse, perhaps with a moderate nationalist Baloch leader, armed with full authority, negotiating with the separatist groups in an attempt to mainstream them. Talks might lead to a viable solution.