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PAPER CHASE

It was the rise of a liberal media in Pakistan that proved the nemesis of the military dictatorship of Pervez Musharraf. Ever since, the media have become an inseparable part of the countryís fight for greater freedom and democracy. Not surprisingly, mediapersons in Pakistan have become sitting ducks for the Taliban in Pakistan as they try and bomb the country back to the Stone Age. The situation has worsened over the past few months, with top journalists being specifically targeted for telling inconvenient truths. In March, a well-known columnist and television anchor, Raza Rumi, somehow managed to escape an assault, and now Hamid Mir, an anchor of Geo TV, has been attacked. Unfortunately, it is not the dastardly attacks on journalists that have kicked up a storm ó it is Mr Mirís hunch that in case of any attack on him, the trail would lead to the Inter-Services Intelligence. The Pakistan army, which mans and controls the ISI, has taken great offence and demanded that Geo TV be dismantled for spreading canards.

Mr Mir is not the first person to have made such an allegation, nor will he be the last. Not long before his death in 2011, another prominent author and journalist, Syed Saleem Shahzad, had made a similar allegation against Pakistanís intelligence agencies. Covering the underbelly of Pakistani society and the establishment, Messrs Rumi, Mir or Shahzad could not but have noticed the interconnection between the Stateís agencies and the shadow warriors propped up to do their bidding wherever such service was demanded or these agenciesí culpability in the killing and disappearances of someone was perceived as ďanti-nationalĒ. It is this nexus that repeatedly surfaced in the stories that these journalists brought to the world. So there is every possibility that they inconvenienced the Taliban and Pakistanís armed establishment. Of course, this does not automatically mean that the ISI eliminated or tried to kill these men. But the doubts raised merit a thorough investigation which the Pakistan army seems hell-bent on avoiding. It is the duty of the civilian government of Pakistan to see that inconvenient questions are not brushed under the carpet merely because they contradict the official version of what the truth is. To ensure that Pakistanís media remain free and fearless, the Nawaz Sharif government has to nab assassins and also put the intelligence agencies under a scanner.