Comment: The president doesn’t know where Rizvi is
By Sarfaraz Ahmed
“I would like to find out where the hell he is,” President Musharraf thundered when asked by Christiane Amanpour about the whereabouts of journalist Khawar Mehdi Rizvi.
This was the last question in his exclusive interview by CNN’s Chief International Correspondent, which was telecast live on Friday.
She had said she wanted to ask him a question on a humanitarian level, and perhaps in “journalistic solidarity,” which would “mean a lot to the management of CNN” if he might perhaps make investigations into what was happening to a Pakistani journalist who was accompanying French journalists Joel-Marc Epstein and Jean-Paul Guilloteau who were arrested in the Pakistani-Afghan border area. The family and colleagues of the Pakistani journalist have not heard from him even though the French journalists were released more than a week ago.
In reply, the president described Mr Rizvi as “...a man contriving with the French journalists and trying to concoct a movie showing Pakistan in a bad light. He’s a most unpatriotic man and doesn’t deserve any sympathy whatsoever because he is trying to bring harm to my country.”
The president’s anger could have been justified had the two Frenchmen not been released. They committed the same offence; in fact, they were the people whom the Pakistani journalist assisted. Yet, the French journalists were merely charged with violation of the Foreigners Act. President Musharraf admitted in the interview that the three had been trying to fabricate within Pakistan “Taliban activity” purportedly taking place in Afghanistan.
The Pakistani government appears to have yielded to the French government’s pressure for the release of the two journalists. The way the issue of the two Frenchmen and the Pakistani has been treated cannot be covered up by patriotic rhetoric and Pakistani journalists have been protesting. Some newspapers have requested the release of Mr Rizvi, whom the government has been trying to present as a disreputable journalist or a hack of little importance.
The ideal situation would have been for the government to charge all three with trying to concoct a movie showing the presence of Taliban in Pakistan and charge the two journalists with violating Foreigners Act as well. But the government failed to get lenient punishment for them from an additional sessions court.
The government seems to be rough on Mr Rizvi.
But the president’s not knowing where Mr Rizvi is does not apparently brighten the chances of the journalist’s discovery. Maybe he will relent and order that the journalist is found and dealt with with the fairness he deserves.