Life is always full of surprises. Forest Gump has summed it in best way when he says life is a box of chocolate, you never know what you are going to get. For a Pakistani journalist, life is more surprising than anywhere else on this planet. Cyril Almeida is our Forest Gump as he gets the chocolate of getting his name into the Exit Control List by simply writing a story about civil and military relationship in the daily Dawn.
As a layman sees it or the world, what is the point of getting so much irritated and creating a lot of fuss over a single story. Pakistani print and electronic media almost daily come up with a number of stories, and almost all of them try their best to go by the basic rule of journalism to make sure whether a news is a real story or a fabricated tale or just a rumor. Dawn holds the highest standard of all its rival media outlets when it comes to authenticating a story before getting it published. How, when and where they can go wrong or make such a big blunder before publishing the story ‘’Act against militants or face international isolation, civilians tell military’’ which is now much celebrated and discussed news report.
The trouble is not with the story, neither with the writer or the newspaper, it lies somewhere else in the corridors of power. Who is running the show, calling the shots and at the helms of affairs? It is obviously not me or you. Neither this power lies in the hands of Cyril or Dawn. This story does not upset majority of Pakistanis. A large number of them might not have heard Cyril’s name ever before but by rejecting this story again and again, and putting his name on the ECL, government has ridiculed itself.
The twist in tale is Dawn stands by its news report though its website, newspaper and Cyril’s timeline tell his name has been put on the ECL. A number of people and journalist community are terming it as an attack on freedom of speech. They are bashing the government over this hasty and nasty decision. Cyril’s was a target of key board jihadis on twitter after this story as there had been a trend against him and Dawn. They were actually questioning his patriotism and Dawn’s loyalty to their country. For key board jihadis, it was a cock and bull story so they ridiculed mercilessly Cyril’s guts and journalistic credentials. Some of them who were more enlightened and visionary somehow established a connection between him and Declan Walsh, the rouge spy in journalist’s disguise. The government of Pakistan is in love hate relationship with this guy, whenever and wherever his name comes up the government gets to its feet and takes immediate action. Key board jihadis made it easier for the government by establishing a link between the two and so first we have a rejection of the story and lastly Cyril’s name on the ECL.
It is in fact a comedy of errors on behalf of the government. Journalists around the globe rely upon their sources to make news reports. It is a practice with them to check and re-check, confirm and re-confirm a story many times before it gets to the print. Prime Minister’s office rejected this story by calling it a fabrication and shows its concern. The comedy starts by introducing the infamous Exit Control List. Previously we had a number of names being put on the ECL including Ayan Ali, but Cyril’s name added more glamour to it than hers. Cyril obviously knows more than what he has written and he must be plotting to use his pen again like a missile to attack our country’s reputation. He could have somehow gotten access to our country’s deepest secrets pertaining to national security. He might sell these secrets to enemies like Uganda, Rwanda, Slovakia and other rouge nations who are after our country and constantly attacking us in hideous hidden ways. So it is indeed a wise decision to put his name on the ECL.
Cyril’s misadventure continues as he is a scapegoat in a way. Almost everyone in our country knows where and with whom rests the real power. The debate of supremacy of institutions thus becomes a trash and no one really dares to question the untapped power of the few chosen ones. The story strikes the bull’s eye and catch them off guard, in frustration they react to it in many ways. Among all this hurly burly and confusion, there was a news story that our premier intelligence agency had been doing operations against terrorists and banned outfits. It will continue these operations with all zeal and zest of the past. In fact this is not a story but a clear message to people like Cyril who are undermining the role of our forces and intelligence agency in curbing the menace of terrorism. He looks like a pawn on the power chess moved forward for ultimate sacrifice