December 7, 2019



It was the second time this week, on Friday, when journalists at the Dawn Islamabad office found themselves stranded inside their office building. Outside, an unruly mob chanted slogans, made speeches on a microphone and burnt copies of the newspaper.

A reporter from within the organization said that the crowd consisted of people who belonged to the lower socio-economic group. “Hardly the market to whom Dawn caters,” he said. “Most of the people there did not seem very educated.”

The crowd was shouting that they wanted to bring the newspaper down, said the source.

Friday’s protest took place just a few hours after the Senate Functional Committee on Human Rights told the Islamabad police to find out who was behind an earlier demonstration against Dawn that took place on Monday.

On Monday, the mob raised a hue and cry following a news report that was published in Dawn.

The headline had described the London Bridge attacker – who had stabbed two people to death – to be of Pakistani descent. Even before street demonstrations took place, Federal Ministers, including Shireen Mazari and Fawad Chaudhry decried the headline online.

The very next day, a sizable group gathered outside the Karachi Press Club and chanted slogans against Dawn. They also made threats against its staff and threatened to attack the newspaper’s offices unless action was taken against the management.

On all three counts, the attacks and siege were strongly condemned by the journalists’ unions. Supporters held a “counter protest” outside all Dawn offices on Thursday. After the Friday protest in Islamabad, the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) vehemently condemned it.

“PFUJ demands the arrest of the group of people who attacked, blocked the gates of Dawn Media Group and harassed the employees and media workers of the organization,” read the statement.

President PFUJ, Shehzada Zulfiqar Ali and Secretary General Nasir Zaidi said that such an attack on a media house was “a clear indication of media gagging by certain quarters and failure of present government in ensuring safety and security to media outlets and journalists community at large.”

Online, the news of the siege went viral almost instantly.

Apart from the journalists, lawmakers and rights groups condemned the act and Bilawal Bhutto Zardari who is also Chairperson of the Standing Committee of Human Rights made a visit to the Dawn Islamabad office the next day, while on Friday, Sardar Akhtar Mengal of BNP-Mengal also went.

Bilawal Bhutto visits Dawn office and condemns the attack
Bilawal Bhutto visits Dawn office and condemns the attack

It was ironic that the law and order situation took a turn for the worse, that too in the Capital city, even after the Prime Minister’s aide Firdous Ashiq Awan had condemned the siege.

The attack has sparked a debate on what may have caused this new controversy.

Some believe that it may be Dawn editor Zaffar Abbas’s speech that prompted such behavior. Mr Abbas received the Gwen Ifill award from the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) for his immense contribution for press freedom. In his video he talked openly about some aspects of the fragile situation in the country.

Minister for Human Rights, Shireen Mazari, took to twitter today to strongly condemn the protester’s motives as well as their use of violence and threats.

But the government of Pakistan remains concerned that the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), a Paris-based monitoring agency, has placed Pakistan on its watch-list of high-risk jurisdictions, also known as the grey list. So far, there are only two countries — Iran and North Korea — on the FATF list of non-cooperative jurisdictions, also known as the blacklist. Last month, the global finance watchdog kept Pakistan off its blacklist but warned that it only had until February to improve its rating or face international action. It also reminded that Pakistan had failed to complete its action plan to combat ‘terrorism financing’ first by a January deadline, then a May deadline and now October.

On Friday Pakistan submitted a report comprising answers to 22 questions to the FATF. The report details Pakistan’s actions against the groups the United Nations has listed as terrorist organizations as well as sentences handed to them by the courts.

Those who attacked Dawn on social media criticized it for linking the London Bridge attacker Usman Khan to Pakistan. Usman Khan has been buried in a village called Gajlani in Pakistan Administered Kashmir.