Following attacks on offices, Dawn editor alleges ‘orchestrated campaign’ against newspaper

Protesters hold a demonstration against an independent newspaper 'Dawn' outside newspaper's office in Islamabad on Dec. 6, 2019. (AP)
Updated 08 December 2019

Following attacks on offices, Dawn editor alleges ‘orchestrated campaign’ against newspaper

  • Government officials deny complicity as protesters twice this week besieged Dawn’s Islamabad bureau 
  • Attacks followed reporting by Dawn that London Bridge attacker was of “Pakistani origin”

KARACHI/ ISLAMABAD: The editor of Pakistan’s leading English language newspaper on Saturday said recent attacks by protesters on the daily’s offices were an “orchestrated campaign” against the country’s newspaper of record, which has a history of strained relations with authorities. 
Protesters twice this week besieged Dawn's Islamabad bureau, chanting slogans against the media group and setting copies of the newspaper on fire for reporting that a man who killed two people in a stabbing spree on London Bridge last month was of “Pakistani origin.” 
Critics, including a number of government officials, have since called the newspaper ‘unpatriotic’ and the report a mala fide attempt to link to Pakistan a man who was born and had spent his life in the United Kingdom. 
Dawn editor Zaffar Abbas told Arab News London Bridge attacker Usman Khan was identified as being of Pakistani origin in the same way as London mayor Sadiq Khan or champion boxer Amir Khan, both of whom were born in the UK to British-Pakistani families. 
"We were accused of writing something anti-state, as according to them [critics], the attacker had nothing to do with Pakistan,” Abbas said, adding that the news report had not suggested the attacker was radicalized in Pakistan or that Pakistan was complicit in the attack.
"Even in the past we had referred to people like the London Mayor Sadiq Khan or boxer Aamir Khan as of Pakistani origin, although they were born in Britain and are UK nationals,” Abbas said. 
"In the larger context, this [protests] can be seen as yet another attempt to silence Dawn, and force it into self-censorship-- something that we have tried to resist so far," Abbas said.
A journalist working for Dawn was charged last year with treason after an interview with former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in which Sharif accused the military of aiding militants who had carried out the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks. Last month, Dawn’s Abbas was awarded the 2019 Press Freedom Award by the Committee to Protect Journalists.
On Saturday, the body of the 28-year-old London Bridge attacker was laid to rest in his ancestral village in Pakistan’s Azad Kashmir.
“All I can say is that after the latest development where the body of the London attacker was brought here and buried in an AJK village, this sinister campaign against Dawn should stop,” Abbas said.
"Prime Minister Imran Khan yesterday said he fully supports media freedom. We expect the prime minister to intervene in the matter, and in the light of the latest development, take measures to stop calls for violence.”
"We have no way to identify the protesters but to us, it looks like an orchestrated campaign against Dawn," Abbas said. "Everyone has a right to disagree with Dawn’s journalism, and even to protest against us. But calling us anti-state, making demands that we be hanged, burning our effigies, amounts to incitement to violence. This should immediately stop." 
Government officials denied that the protests were planned or sponsored by the state or its agencies. 
“The government has nothing to do with these protests. Why would the government do it? If anything happens which is not liked by the people, they come out to protest. This happens everywhere in the world, even in western countries,” ruling party senator Shibli Faraz, the leader of the house in Pakistan’s senate, said. “But again, I would say the protest should be peaceful.” 
Earlier, Human Rights Minister Shireen Mazari said on Twitter that though she often disagreed with Dawn’s editorial line, she condemned the protests. 
A government spokesman could not be reached for comment.


Pakistan’s role in Middle East deescalation hailed, says Qureshi

Updated 24 January 2020

Pakistan’s role in Middle East deescalation hailed, says Qureshi

  • Says the country’s diplomatic efforts have produced positive results in the region
  • Informs that US President Donald Trump is planning an exclusive visit to Pakistan this year

ISLAMABAD: Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi told Arab News in an exclusive interview on Thursday that Pakistan’s mediation gesture during the Middle East crisis in the beginning of the year was applauded by Saudi Arabia and Iran.
“Both Saudi Arabia and Iran have appreciated Pakistan’s positive intentions behind the mediation effort,” Qureshi said, adding that the Saudi foreign minister, Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud, told him during a meeting in Riyadh that Pakistan was “on the right track and all the regional countries should immediately join hands to deescalate the situation in the Middle East.”
On the directives of Prime Minister Imran Khan, Qureshi visited Iran, Saudi Arabia and the United States earlier this month to urge all stakeholders to practice “maximum restraint” in the wake of the killing of a top Iranian commander, Qassem Soleimani, in a US drone strike in Baghdad.
“With the help of other countries, Pakistan succeeded in its efforts to deescalate the Middle East situation. The country assured everyone it was willing to be partner in peace but could not become part of any other conflict,” Qureshi said.
“I also contacted foreign ministers of other regional states. Everyone understood the importance of convincing the countries concerned to exercise maximum restraint,” he continued.
“I met with the Iranian foreign minister and president. My meeting with President Hassan Rouhani lasted for an hour wherein we discussed how to defuse the situation and minimize tensions in the region,” the foreign minister said, adding: “I shared all the findings of my discussions in Tehran with my counterpart in Riyadh, saying it was Pakistan’s utmost desire to reduce tensions in the region.”
The minister continued that Pakistan wanted to minimize misunderstandings among Muslim states.
“Saudi Arabia is our very close friend while Iran is our neighbor. We don’t want tensions to mount among Muslim countries since that can be harmful for the whole Muslim Ummah.”
Asked about the expected visit of United States President Donald Trump to Pakistan, he said the American leader would visit Pakistan this year.
“President Trump has expressed his desire to pay an exclusive and independent visit to Pakistan which would not be linked to his visit to India. Pakistan is an independent and important country in the eyes of President Trump, therefore he desires to pay an exclusive visit to Pakistan,” Qureshi said.
The foreign minister said it now depended on President Trump’s “schedule where the visit will fit in.”
“It may come before or after the next US presidential election, but it will take place this year,” he said.