Manchester: The brave journalists of Pakistan Media were remembered in London.
Pakistan Press Club UK arranged a seminar in honor of those journalists who accept lashes in Zia regime for the sake of independence of journalism.
Speakers including one of the hero of that movement Nasir Malik, former President Lahore Press Club Saqlain Imam, President Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists Afzal Butt, Lord Nazir Ahmed, Mobeen Chaudhry, Akram Abid, Naveed Chaudhry and President PPCUK Arshad Rachyal told the audience that the The Zia rule will remain a nightmare for a number of its features for a long time, but perhaps none of these gave warning of the nature of the rule to come more strikingly in the very years than dictator’s decision to have four journalists convicted and openly flogged.
The protest started on April 30 in Lahore, as announced, and daily a procession was taken out from Lahore Hotel to the Assembly Hall and a group of four offered arrest to the sympathizing cheers of thousands of bystanders.
Soon these groups of detainees began to be produced in handcuffs before the military courts. These proceeded to hand down summary convictions and sentences of fines and terms of rigorous imprisonment.
When that didn’t seem to be working and the movement kept going, the dictator decided to raise the stakes. He asked the sentence to include flogging. If some of the journalists were lashed that would spread terror among the rest. It was thought, and the movement would collapse.
Accordingly, the group that was arraigned before the kangaroo court of a major on May 13, 1978, was promptly sentenced, among other things, to be given 15 lashes each.
Within an hour of the judgment the sentence was actually carried out. In the Kot Lakhpat Jail, Nasir Zaidi, Khawar Naeem Hashmi and Iqbal Jafri were each stripped to their waist, spread-eagled against a rigging by turns, and administered the reaching impact of a yard of bristling roll several times over. What they felt with each stinging, electrifying blow, and in between those blows, only they can tell, but the whipper-in chief back in Islamabad must have darkly chuckled at the thought of each crack of the whip.
The jail doctor had felt constrained to register a strong caveat in respect of two of those sentenced. His examination had shown Khawar Naeem Hashmi to be too frail and below par to stand the lashes. He was, however, overruled by the jail superintendent and Khawar got whipped, literally into the history books. About Masudullah Khan, who suffers from a physical handicap, the doctor was unyielding. The superintendent would have to carry the whole responsibility himself in Masudullah’s case, the doctor said and he would be very unwise if he did so. That apparently sobered up the official and Masudullah got spared.
Chuckle in his khaki sleeves as jack the whipper might his giving the journalists this taste of his savagery didn’t have the effect he had calculated. Far from the movement recoiling in fear, it succeeded when its venue was later shifted to Karachi in widening its appeal and attracting even students, workers and haris to its active fold. The tyranny didn’t abate. However, it only became less demonstrative to avoid bad publicity.
Today’s memory, however, is a reminder to those who stand up for freedom of expression that their fight is an arduous one. Only the odds shorten and lengthen, and the nature of the opposition varies: the struggle goes on. For those pitiably broke ranks, May 13 ought to be reminder – though sadly it may not be — of how transient their glory was and what a mess of pottage they had sold their souls for.
Nasir Zaidi, Khawar Naeem Hashmi, Iqbal jafri and Masudullah Khan will meanwhile live on, a scourge to the tormentors and an inspiration to all others.
Youtube Link: https://youtu.be/ptRcf1XgW9Y