April 11, 2011: Muhammad Ejaz Khan, Mehmal Sarfraz, and Kamal Siddiqi

Rising Extremism in Pakistan: Perspectives from the Media

WASHINGTON, DC (April 19, 2011) -- Pakistani society is increasingly becoming radicalized. The determinants of the growing extremism and violence are both internal and external, including the controversial blasphemy law, conflict in Afghanistan, drone attacks in the border areas, and low capacity of the civilian government to provide services and maintain internal security. Three Pakistani journalists, Mr. Muhammad Ejaz Khan, Ms. Mehmal Sarfraz, and Mr. Kamal Siddiqi, discussed how the growing radicalization of society is affecting media and freedom of expression. The first presentation, given by Mr. Khan, described the concerning atmosphere within Balochistan province and shed light upon the growing ethnic tension between the Baloch and Pashtun populations. Because the Baloch people are struggling to secure their rights to the province's resources, he believes that many within this population have begun supporting local insurgents. The murders of two prominent politicians who spoke out against Pakistan's blasphemy law are evidence of growing extremism in Pakistan. The reaction from the civil society and government with regards to these acts of violence was "eye-opening," said Mr. Siddiqi. The media's response seemed confused, as if it was unsure how to perceive the murders, and the Pakistani government remained mostly silent; only the majority party dared to speak out. Ms. Sarfraz added that if the Pakistani people and government want to root out extremism, they need to promote and implement democratic practices.

Muhammad Ejaz Khan is the bureau chief of Geo TV for Balochistan, based in Quetta, as well as the senior correspondent of The News International . He has covered the US-led war on terror in neighboring Afghanistan from the Pakistan-Afghan border as well as the conflict in Iran. Travelling extensively throughout Balochistan, Mr. Khan maintains a strong affiliation and acquaintance with all the national, nationalist and provincial political leaders, as well as chief representatives of the tribal areas. He is also a recipient of the Tamgha-e-Imtiaz— a prestigious civil award from the president of Pakistan for service in the field of journalism.

Mehmal Sarfraz is the Op-Ed editor of Daily Times , an English language daily which is one of the most liberal newspapers in Pakistan; it is secular, liberal, progressive and pro-minority groups. Her work has focused on a wide range of topics, including religious extremism in Pakistan, terrorism, foreign policy, women’s rights, and minority rights. Ms. Sarfraz is also the regional Joint General Secretary of South Asian Women in Media (SAWM), an organization which is committed to fighting gender-based violence and promoting women’s rights in SAARC countries.

Kamal Siddiqi is the editor of The Express Tribune, a national English language daily that is published from Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad. Previously, he was an editor reporting for The News International, a national English language daily published from Karachi, Lahore, and Islamabad, which is one of Pakistan’s most widely-circulated English language dailies and is part of the Jang Group, Pakistan’s largest media house. Mr. Siddiqi was responsible for the city pages from Karachi and the national business pages. ###