Hamid Mir: our precious jewel by Umar Cheema

01 Dec, 2012

When I heard the news of an assassination attempt on Hamid Mir, tears started rolling down on my cheeks. I struggled hard to fight them back. In fact, I got to hear this while I was abroad. There were journalists from different countries accompanying me.
I didn’t want to let them know how fast the space for a debate was shrinking in Pakistan. It was not comforting either to share that we are gradually accepting violence as a societal norm. How could I acknowledge before them that we are ‘shrewd’ enough to interpret every tragedy as a conspiracy like many people did in Malala’s case or the work of RAW/CIA as we say reacting to such terror incidents?
But these were tears of joy. I was happy to know Mir is still alive and unshaken. That he is determined to keep fighting. He is an extraordinary journalist. His struggle starts from the point where the red flag appears. Mir is a man of iron nerves, and untiring soldier of journalism and undeterred surrogate of the oppressed and depressed people of Pakistan. In short, he is a jewel of journalism.
I knew very little of him in person before my kidnapping incident in September 2010. He was the first to write and raise his voice in my support. From then onward, none of his action has been out of my radar screen. I have never seen in my life a brave man like him.
Name anybody Mir has not fought for. He even fought for those gunning at each other. He championed the cause of the missing persons and questioned the role of security forces in Balochistan. Resultantly, security establishment was upset with him. He fought against the unjust treatment being meted out to Dr Aafia Siddiqui and was the first to criticise drone strikes in Fata. This earned him the displeasure of the United States.
He simultaneously trained his guns at the liberals and conservative pockets as he urged the need of promoting a narrative rooted only in Pakistan. Consequently, he was favourite of neither side. He is the most active and effective voice for the rights of Pakistani journalists. Although he is on an executive position, he takes pride declaring him as part of working journalists instead of the management.
Any newsmen in trouble anywhere would see a hope in Mir. No matter the journalists in Fata and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa receive threats or a journalist is murdered in Balochistan and other places, the first man to write for their rights is nobody else but Mir.
When Khuzdar Press Club was locked in protest against the killing of journalists, its president who lost two sons to the Balochistan conflict decided to make his voice public through a letter to Mir. The families of slain tribal journalist Hayatullah Khan and Saleem Shehzad would find comfort in talking to him. Nobody followed as closely the murder of Wali Khan Babar as Mir did. He has been the part and parcel of all the protests conducted by the journalist community.
He is also an ardent supporter of the children education. Mir put his life at risk condemning the attackers of Malala Yousafzai and calling into question their cruel act. This was the time when noted religious scholars who would condemn it privately did not dare to speak publicly leaving this burden on the shoulders of Mir. After a series of programmes, he received threats from Taliban but did not care. I requested him many times not to mess up with every dangerous player. Mir replied that staying silent on this issue would have made him guilt-ridden for the whole life. I could not agree with him more. But I have always been concerned about his safety.
I feel personal stakes in his life. He is not only precious for his family but for the journalists’ community and the people of Pakistan. God forbid had something bad happened to him, the journalist community would have lost a great champion of their rights. Bold people like him are not born everyday. He is not only brave but also a man of integrity and this is a prime source of his strength. He has nobody’s agenda but of Pakistan.
Those who tried to kill him must realise he is larger than life. This is a high time to stand shoulder to shoulder with this proud son of the soil as he did by raising his voice for others through thick and thin.
They say courage is a matter of practice. Let’s fake it until we make it. I can’t forget the line of a female Mexican journalist who was under death threats from the drug cartels. She said: “Nobody wants to die but living in silence is another way to die.”

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