KARACHI: The respected German publication Der Spiegel is pulling out its Islamabad-based correspondent Hasnain Kazim this year and no one is coming to replace him. As he departs so does the German interest in Pakistan.
Kazim, 38, the only German journalist working here, shared his views on Pakistan at the Karachi Press Club on Thursday. After spending four years, he confesses to be still searching for answers to many questions.
“What does Pakistan stands for? Does it want to be an Islamic State? If so, then which Islam would it be?” he wondered. “I admit that I have failed to find the answers.” In his conversations with politicians and general public, some issues surfaced that left him wondering what people are seeking.
“A lot of people I speak to support democracy,” he said. “But at the same time, you talk to an average person and he says ‘Oh, I think that things were better under (General) Musharraf’s rule’.”
Born to Pakistani parents and raised in Germany, Kazim was supposed to be stationed in India as the Der Spiegel correspondent for South Asia. His link with Pakistan did not help him there either. “My stuff has been packed and moved to India, but the government refused to give me a visa to work there. I was never told the reason but it was probably because of my Pakistani roots.”
Having Pakistani roots and reporting for an organisation, such as Der Spiegel, would often put him in a dilemma. Pakistani government officials asked him to portray a ‘soft image’ of the country, whereas selling stories other than terrorism to the editors was difficult too. “It is true that Pakistan came close to the West after 9/11 and its support for the War on Terror, but I tried to highlight other aspects of life here as well. I did couple of travel stories.”
He recently wrote a travel story on Baltistan that unfortunately coincided with the attacks in Quetta. “The editors said how people can be encouraged to travel there when so many people are losing their lives. It made sense and I couldn’t do anything about it.”
Kazim feared that the interests of the West in Pakistan will slide dramatically as troops pull out of the neighbouring Afghanistan. Many people did not hail the killing of Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad, he pointed out, adding that it became an issue of Pakistan’s sovereignty instead.
When he moderated a debate between German and local politicians, four Pakistani lawmakers especially requested him to refrain from bringing up the blasphemy laws because they feared for their lives. For Kazim, this indicated how fragile the situation was in Pakistan. He admitted that he was shocked when some of his liberal friends in Pakistan actually supported the murderer of Governor Salmaan Taseer.
“There are Germans who are really interested in Pakistan. I can see that from the comments that come in response to my stories. But, selling a story other than terrorism needs hard work.”
The press conference was also attended by German consul-general Dr Tilo Klinner.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 8th, 2013.