Senior journalist Arshad Sharif, who fled the country after he was charged with sedition, died in Kenya's Nairobi after reportedly being shot. PHOTO: FACEBOOK

Dying to tell a story

They hit you, and keep hitting. Because we, as journalists, are trained to tell a story, and the world doesn’t like it

Bisma Tirmizi October 26, 2022

It’s always a sad day when a journalist is killed in the line of duty, and this time it was Arshad Sharif. A wonderful Pakistani journalist who tried his best to escape to Kenya in order to save his life.

It’s hard to tell the truth, people don’t like you for it! They hit you, and they keep hitting. Why, you ask? Because we, as journalists, are trained to tell a story, the truth, and the world doesn’t like it! We are beaten up for writing about social issues, religious malpractices, establishment corruption, political realities, for calling out ills in the setup. I remember when I wrote about Osama Bin Ladin’s death, I was told by my editor to change a few things if I wished to visit Pakistan again. When I write about sectarian violence, it is the same; when I write about the madrassas, it is the same.

Military establishment I don’t touch, at least that’s what I say.
Politics, I do!
Religion, I do!
There are so many articles I’ve written under a pseudonym and never posted on my social media page because I get scared for my people, and myself!

I obviously don’t have the guts to put my name to so many articles I’ve written. After all, they are published in Pakistan, and like the Old Texas, there, the gun is the law. And that’s the truth. It takes a lot of courage to tell the truth and then put your name on it too. Arshad did just that.

I’ve been beaten up so many times for writing a benign social media status too, for no apparent reason. My friends have turned on me; my acquaintances without knowing me have come for the jugular. The hate emails I’ve received over my articles that were published with my name, that’s a whole other can of worms I don’t wish to open. Our society is so intolerant that writing the truth can be deadly sometimes, literally.

Today, I’m truly sad that Arshad was murdered at the hands of men in uniform, because he wouldn’t stay quiet. I left Dawn in 1997, Arshad joined it in 2001. Our paths never crossed, but I’m sure we walked that same corridor hundreds of times at different times in our lives. There are so many journalists I know personally, I’ve met them, hung out with them. All these people are my age, some older, some much older, but it’s painful to see them die for merely telling a story. I chose to leave the fraternity of journalists when I decided to get married to a man living outside of Pakistan. It was a very conscious choice I made. I fell in love.

However, every time I go to the Press Club or to the Dawn office in Karachi, it’s like going home. I love it. I left a wonderful career behind to live a wonderful married life (I never gave up writing though), but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t hit a raw nerve each time an old colleague dies or someone from the fraternity is gunned down.

Why do you think I’m so comfortable writing the statuses I do? It is because I’m a journalist at heart and genuinely don’t care how people perceive what I write, especially because it’s never personal. Only a journalist will get what I’m saying, a layperson can't. Never. 

Be careful out there my fraternity; men in uniforms and the corrupt politicians are scared of your pen, for it is mightier than the swords, any day.

Rest in peace, Arshad. Truly saddened for your old mother, your young wife and young kids. My heart bleeds knowing you’ll no longer be able to tell those tough stories in the future.

Such a huge loss this is. A sad day for journalists around the world.

Bisma Tirmizi

The author is a seasoned journalist by profession who has authored ‘Feast With A Taste Of Amir Khusro', published by Rupa Publications, and co-authored Companion to Pakistani Cuisine published by Oxford University Press. 

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.


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