From Qasida Khwani to Political Asylum: Malik Siraj Akbar’s convenient journalism

by admin

Related post: Qasida-e-Husain-Haqqani – by Malik Siraj Akbar

We are cross-posting this interesting post by Baloch Hal editor Malik Siraj Akbar in which he “humbly and respectfully thanks the government of the United States of America” for granting him asylum in a country where in his own words he is sure he will not be judged “by the color of… skin but the content of … character.”

Malik Siraj AKbar is commonly known to have the following peculiar features:

1. Siraj belongs to the Najam Sethi lobby of the non-Baloch “champions” of the Baloch cause. The myth of Sethi’s contributions to the Baloch resistance movement has been shattered by none else than his own Baloch resistance colleague Asad Rehman in his interview with Siraj (what an irony!)

Other people in Najam Sethi tribe include the following: Ejaz Haider, Urooj Zia, Beena Sarwar etc.

2. According to senior Baloch journalist and activist, Ahmar Musti Khan, Siraj belongs to a Punjabi settler family in Balochistan. The American Friends of Balochistan have requested him to clarify if it is true that he is a Punjabi settler’s son to clear misperceptions in the minds of the people about his political loyalty, once and for all. While this does not make him less worthy or less equal, this does raise important questions about his transparency and integrity particularly when he presents himself (e.g. in the following post) as a “young endangered Baloch journalist”.

3. Siraj has a track record of developing networks with and flattering influential people, even if they represent Pakistan’s establishment, to promote his personal interests. For example, review his famous qasidah of Ambassador Hussain Haqqani.

While we congratulate Siraj on achieving his long time personal goal (political asylum in the USA), we hope he will refrain from occasionally misrepresenting facts for personal gains, for example when he refers to an ISI’s asset’s arrest in the US as an outcome of trust deficit between Pakistan and US. Baloch activists and their supporters will agree that anyone who is associated with known toadies of Pakistan’s military establishment, e.g., Najam Sethi and Urooj Zia types, for personal gains is not to be trusted on the Baloch cause.

Here is Siraj’s post in his own words:

Goodbye Pakistan
by Malik Siraj Akbar
26 October 2011

During the past eight years, we, the indigenous majority people of Balochistan, the largest resource-rich province in Pakistan, have experienced extraordinary brutalities. The Pakistani forces have killed the best of our politiciansdoctors,lawyersprofessorsjournalists, and students. During the ongoing conflict, I have lost some of my best friends. Friends with whom I shared my dorm room; those with whom I ate lunch and worked as a journalist. Many of my friends have disappeared while the others are going through trauma.

As a liberal, progressive journalist, I have always advocated a peaceful political solution to the conflict in Balochistan but Islamabad never paid attention to our suggestions. The government agencies killed several Baloch journalists,blocked my online newspaperThe Baloch Hal, threatened to kill me, ran massive abusive online campaigns against me.

Pakistan loves Balochistan’s resources but not its people. A Baloch, whether educated or uneducated, is, at the end of the day, considered as a ‘traitor’. There were so many times I proposed in my articles that insanity should stop and Pakistani forces should end the killing of Balochs. Instead, the post-Musharraf Balochistan has witnessed the new gruesome phenomenon of kill and dump. At least 250 Baloch youths have been tortured to death in the last eight months.

I have always considered myself as a brave reporter but my friends tell me there is a very fine line between bravery and stupidity. But I chose to become a journalist because I wanted to fight injustice.

As a young endangered Baloch journalist who is still committed to exposing human rights violations, particularly from Balochistan, I am announcing a very difficult but important decision of my life. I would like to humbly and respectfully thank the government of the United States of America for granting  me asylum in this country where I am sure I will not be judged “by the color of… skin but  the content of … character.”

10 Responses to “From Qasida Khwani to Political Asylum: Malik Siraj Akbar’s convenient journalism”

  1. It is unfortunate what has happened to Malik Siraj Akbar. I really like his Baloch Hal website. Even his credentials and links seem shoddy, but I wish him the best

  2. This is by far one of the most sharp-worded analyses.

  3. Shame on the poster of this post…………..
    I’m a true baloch and i personally know how much Malik SIraj Akbar has done for Balochistan………….
    A true Baloch will always respect him and his thoughts and his contributions for the Baloch nation………
    Long live Baloch struggle and MALIK SIRAJ AKBAR………

  4. Anyone who is a today of Hussain Haqqani and Najam Sethi is not to be trusted.

  5. Pakistani journalist given U.S. asylum tells of threats, disappearances in Baluchistan

    By Pamela Constable,
    Published: November 14

    Siraj Ahmed Malik, an ambitious young Pakistani journalist, was enjoying a stint last fall on a fellowship at the University of Arizona when he started getting chilling messages from home.

    One after another, his friends and colleagues were disappearing, he learned, and their bodies were turning up with bullet holes and burn marks. A doctor’s son from his home town was arrested and vanished. A fellow reporter was kidnapped, and his corpse was found near a river. A student leader was detained, and his bullet-riddled body dumped on a highway. A writer whose stories Malik had edited was shot and killed.

    “These were kids I had played cricket with, people I had interviewed, younger reporters I had taught,” Malik, 28, said in an interview last week in Arlington County, where he now lives. The final straw came in early June, when one of his mentors, a poet and scholar, was gunned down in Quetta, the capital of Baluchistan, Malik’s native province.

    On Aug. 19, Malik applied for political asylum in the United States. In his petition, he said that his work as a journalist and ethnic activist in Baluchistan, where he had exposed military abuses, made him likely to be arrested, tortured, abducted and “ultimately killed by the government” if he returned.

    Two weeks ago, his petition was granted. It was a highly unusual decision by U.S. immigration officials, given Pakistan’s status: a strategic partner in Washington’s war against Islamic terrorism; a longtime recipient of U.S. aid; and a democracy with an elected civilian government and vibrant national news media.

    “I never wanted to leave my country, but I don’t want to become a martyr, either,” said Malik, a soft-spoken but steely man who spends his days hunched over a laptop at coffee shops in Clarendon, checking with sources back home to update his online newspaper, whose name means “Baluch Truth.”

    “What’s going on in Baluchistan is like the dirty war in Argentina,” he said. “I need to be telling the story, but I can’t afford to become the story.”

    Baluchistan is the Wild West of Pakistan — a remote desert province, larger than France, that is home to a mix of radical Islamic groups, rival ethnic and refugee gangs, rebellious armed tribes, and security agencies that have long been reported to kidnap, torture and kill dissidents with impunity.

    Living under constant threat

    Yet this ongoing violence and skulduggery receives scant international attention. Foreign journalists are banned from visiting the region alone, while headlines about Pakistan are dominated by a separate, high-stakes border conflict in which American drones and Pakistani troops are battling the Taliban and al-Qaeda.

    As a result, a handful of local journalists such as Malik have been left to investigate and report the news without big-city patrons or visiting foreign delegations to give them cover.

    “The threat of disappearance was always lurking in the back of our minds,” Malik wrote in his asylum petition. “My friends, colleagues and I lived with the knowledge that yesterday it was him that disappeared; today it is someone else; tomorrow it could easily be me.”

    As Malik recounted over coffee, pressure and threats from unidentified intelligence agents were a daily hazard. According to his asylum file, agents accosted him in airports and hotels, detained and questioned him, and repeatedly threatened to “teach me a lesson.”

    Malik acknowledges that as an advocate for the Baluch nationalist cause, his journalism is hardly neutral. The ethnic minority movement, which seeks autonomy from the central government, includes armed groups. Malik claims that he does not condone them, but he describes their stance as a “defensive” response to official abuse.

    Still, his case for protection was bolstered by reports from human rights groups and letters from university officials in Arizona, who called him “nothing short of brave.” In a July report, Human Rights Watch described a “practice of enforced disappearances” of Baluch leaders and intellectuals, often by security agencies, and listed 45 abductions or killings since 2009.

    Activists including Malik assert that more than 5,000 Baluch have vanished in the past decade, but the issue has never been seriously addressed, while the government has both co-opted and persecuted Baluch tribal chiefs. In 2007, Pakistan’s military president fired the head of the Supreme Court, who sought to probe the disappearances. In 2008, a civilian government took office and an investigative commission was established, but little action has been taken.

    “The authorities have no answers because there is no accountability,” said one Pakistani diplomat, who asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the subject. He suggested that Malik had exaggerated his fear of persecution as a “ploy” to remain in the United States, but he also called disappearances “the tip of the iceberg” in a society where security forces hold sway behind the scenes. Even a chief justice, he added, “knows there are lines he cannot cross.”

    Driven to speak out

    Najam Sethi, a newspaper publisher and titan of Pakistan’s liberal media establishment, was Malik’s boss from 2006 to 2010, when he worked as a correspondent in Quetta. For the past few months, Sethi has been on his own sabbatical at the New America Foundation in Washington, partly to escape the pressure he faces at home.

    At a public forum here last week, Sethi described Pakistan’s news media as free to snipe at politicians and expose financial scandals but said it remains cautious about reporting on military and intelligence institutions, partly out of respect and partly out of fear.

    “The media are scared, because there is no one to protect them,” Sethi said.

    According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, more than 40 Pakistani journalists have been killed since 1992. In May, a well-known investigative reporter, Saleem Shahzad, was abducted and found murdered. Shahzad had received threats after writing about al-Qaeda infiltration of the military, and a senior U.S. military official said his killing had been “sanctioned” by the government.

    Asked about Malik, Sethi said he thought his former staffer had been too aggressive and outspoken. As Malik’s editor, he said, he had intervened several times with military authorities to protect him. “I wish he hadn’t gone so far,” Sethi said. “He crossed too many red lines.”

    Malik, however, said he felt “betrayed” by such liberal media leaders, saying they have avoided speaking out against oppression in Baluchistan. He recounted how Baluch groups had been galvanized by the 2006 army slaying of the legendary tribal chief Nawab Akbar Bugti.

    “For us, the killing of Bugti was Pakistan’s 9/11,” Malik said. After that, he said, he stepped up his exposure of the violence and abuses. His activities drew increasing attention from government agents, who, he said, called him a “traitor” and threatened to kill him if he did not stop.

    Instead, Malik persisted. In early 2010, he attended a conference in India and denounced the disappearances. From his fellowship perch in Arizona last winter, and then while working briefly at the Center for Public Integrity in Washington in the spring, he wrote and spoke out at every opportunity.

    But as the deaths of other Baluch journalists and friends began to mount, Malik said last week, he began to hesitate about returning.

    “Baluchistan needs a messenger to the world,” he said, itching to get back to his reporting. “Here in the United States, I don’t have an office or money, but at least I can stay alive and get the message out.”

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/pakistani-journalist-given-us-asylum-tells-of-threats-disappearances-in-baluchistan/2011/11/09/gIQAtFufKN_story_1.html

  6. @Post Starter
    As you have mentioned about Malik Siraj Akbar. I am going to clear that Malik Siraj is a Baloch not a punabi. By having name of Malik, it doesn’t mean that he is Punjabi. He is a Baloch. We love him. Yes i have heard that his grand grand father migrated from punjab and then married here. But now they are true balochs, even better then so called balochs, who are balochs by name. He is a Baloch with his acts. Long Live Malik Siraj Akbar. by the way i belong to his native city and Malik Siraj Akbar was my teacher.
    @Malik Siraj Akbar
    Congratulation on getting asylum Sir. Don’t Come back sir. We have already lost so many true journalists in Balochistan. We don’t wanna lose you. God Bless We. All Baloch Nation Loves You.

    • Correction: Being a Baloch and keen observer of the current affairs and a native of this province let me clarify that Malik Siraj Akbar’s grandfather didn’t migrate from Punjab but migrated from Sarawan Iran,,,, They r called MALIKs due to having a business background…

  7. Breaking: Husain Haqqani seeks asylum in the USA. http://bit.ly/uMvoui #IndiaToday #HusainHaqqani

    Pakistan’s envoy to US Hussain Haqqani resigns, seeks asylum: Sources

    Hussain Haqqani has sought asylum in United States.

    Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States, Hussain Haqqani has resigned and sought asylum in the country, sources told Headlines Today on Thursday.

    Sources said Haqqani has sent in his papers, but his resignation was yet to be accepted. He has been under pressure ever since media reports about a secret memo he wrote surfaced.

    Haqqani has decided not to leave the US, sources said. He has been warned by his friends that if he went back to Pakistan, he would be whisked away on arrival.

    Trouble broke out for Haqqani after reports that he contacted the then US chief of staff Mike Mullen to pass on a message from President Asif Ali Zardari who wanted help from the US to stave off a military takeover.

    Read more at: http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/pakistan-envoy-hussain-haqqani-united-states-asylum/1/160377.html

  8. Correction: Being a Baloch and keen observer of the current affairs and a native of this province let me clarify that Malik Siraj Akbar’s grandfather didn’t migrate from Punjab but migrated from Sarawan Iran,,,, They r called MALIKs on due to having a business background…

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