My 30 years association with Jang Group
My association with the Jang Group is more or less thirty years old. Starting the journey from the scratch as apprentice sub editor, with steady and patient struggle, I climbed one rung after the other and now the responsibility of Senior Editor Editorial Jang lies on my shoulders. To monitor the editorial policy besides watching the articles and columns on op-ed and other pages is also part of my duty.
I cherish my meetings with the founder of Jang Group Mir Khalil-ur-Rahman and can vividly recall his tips for the betterment of the paper. The writings of Irshad Ahmad Haqqani, Waris Mir, Nazir Naji, Munnu Bhai and senior journalists, their disagreement with the government policies and the publication of divergent views on the pages of the same newspaper are part of my memory. In the Jang Group every sort of opinion is respected, provided it is not illegal, unethical or against the person of anyone. If we observe the history of Jang Group — Geo TV being part of it — two conspicuous things come to the fore: One that it has always added to public awareness and has never tried to conceal anything for its own narrow ends; secondly this Group has never insisted to promote a single point of view, but has tried to give place to other or some differing opinion so that people themselves, after having different points of view before them, should be able to cull right from the wrong.
Dialogue has always been the key to progress of every civilised and democratic country and dialogue is possible only when differing points of view are heard and presented before people. The only fault with Geo and Jang is that they have come with alternate points of view in the presence of decayed and frozen ideas so that the realm of governance, thinking and opinion is broadened and the country becomes a real welfare state.
Imran Khan who is a celebrated politician of course, has accused that Jang and Geo talk of ‘Aman ki Asha’ only with its eastern neighbour whereas they favour war with neighbours on the western front, i.e. the Taliban. According to policy of op-ed pages, I and all the workers on the editorial staff wish to make it clear that in spite of some reservations we have always been all along supporting the dialogue process. Editorial and editorial notes of the past eleven months, or even before, will bear us out that our editorial policy has always been pro-dialogue, whereas a newspaper of the left has been continuously opposing dialogue process.
Most of the newspapers in English language have been opposing dialogue process. However we have been publishing articles and columns on op-ed pages for and against the dialogue. If on the one hand Ayaz Amir, Wajahat Masood and Yasir Pirzada have been independently expressing their opinion against dialogue process for peace, on the other hand journalists and columnists like Ansar Abbasi, Hafizullah Niazi, and Dr Hussain Ahmad Paracha too have been candidly venting their thinking in favour of the process of dialogue. Neither the administration nor I myself issued any ‘advice’ about what type of columns are to be published and what not. No opinion is foisted on the staff with reference to keeping the eastern or western borders cold or hot. It is unbelievable that any such ‘advice’ can be issued. It is inconceivable that an institution having independent journalists like Hasan Nisar and Ataul Haq Qasmi, with personal opinion of their own, can be accused of having staff of one line of thought.
Our all previous or present writers; those who are still working in the organisation or have left us, even those who have difference of opinion with us, will all bear us out that the Jang/Geo never instructed them to write in favour of or against a particular country. The charge that our institution is in favour of or against a particular country is absolutely misleading. Jang editorial board has never directed any writer or columnist to write in favour or against India, US, Afghanistan, or for that matter any country. The fact is that our two respected columnists Najam Sethi and Ansar Abbasi have absolutely divergent views on our relations with India and US and they mince no meat about their opinion in their columns. Our writers give their opinion and the Jang/Geo publishes both, in deference to their point of view. Hamid Mir is one of our most read columnists, however those who disagree with his opinion, e.g. Ayaz Amir, and Yasir Pirzada have an identity of their own on the op-ed pages. We publish opinions of all colours and hues on our pages and this is to honour their point of view. Our writers have their own point of view and opinion and the institution in all deference to their views. The Group further takes care that there is a balance between right or left, modern or conservative, fundamentalists and different opinion holders. A balance is endeavoured to be maintained and if there is some mistake, efforts are made to rectify the situation.
The PTI has always had serious reservations about two columnists of Jang. Angry reaction came from PTI over two columns of Salim Safi about Azam Swati and Jehangir Tareen. Jang proved its impartiality by printing the rejoinders of Azam Swati of the PTI and of Fayyazul Hassan Chohan. Jang experienced big pressure from the PTI to ban the columns of columnist Hafeezullah Niazi. The fact remains that when Hafeezullah Niazi had joined Jang, he was a supporter of PTI. Their differences developed sometime after that and he often disagreed with Imran Khan and the PTI. It has been a rule with Jang that no personal attacks are allowed in its columns. However, political decisions can come under criticism. It is exactly for this reason that Jang administration rejected the demand of Imran Khan to ban the columns of Hafeezullah Niazi who happens to be his brother-in-law. This perhaps was the reason that Imran Khan and PTI’s anger for Jang continued to increase. The fact is that the Jang administration has never fired any columnists or journalists at the behest of the government or any influential person.
The charge being levelled is that this institution (Jang/Geo Group) has committed treason. It should be remembered that authentic researcher and historian on Pakistan Ideology and on the Father of the Nation, Dr Safdar Mahmood has given convincing arguments against each objection in the very columns of Jang. Secondly, if you want to be astonished and witness the impartiality of, and respect for the opinion of others, please read the articles/columns published in Jang after April 19, the day attempt on life of Hamid Mir was made. Many columnists, including Ayaz Amir and Najam Sethi, openly differed with many points of the policy of Jang and Geo. Their difference of opinion was published with the respect they deserve. I am afraid no other newspaper in Pakistan will print such dissenting opinions. Jang has been doing this and this is a feather in their cap.
Talk of any prejudice or negative approach towards the armed forces is no more than propaganda. As a senior editorial member of the Jang Group, I personally presented two episodes of the programme ‘Aik Din Geo Ke Saath’ during Swat operation. I spent an Eid day with our army jawans in Waziristan operation. When Pakistan Army was deployed in Congo, I recorded a programme of four episodes. The editor-in-chief personally directed me to conduct a programme with the injured soldiers and the programme was telecast.
In the recent past when the Martyrs’ Day was celebrated I was reminded of the fact that I had visited the village of Sawar Muhammad Hussain Shaheed to record the programme: ‘Aik Din Geo Ke Saath’. All these programmes were aired with due deference and respect. I feel no hesitation in declaring that the administration never advised to write anything or air any show against the armed forces. These days when the atmosphere is highly charged with misunderstandings and recriminations, it should be desisted to level baseless and false charges against the institutions which could not be proved. Jang and Geo may be privately owned institutions; they have followed the rules and regulations to promote institutional development of the armed forces. Media’s development too should be considered a national advancement. No doubt it is difficult to understand this at this point of time, but to repress the media will inflict severe loss on national development.