By Arshad Sharif

The attackers of journalist Ahmed Noorani have been identified. They were identified when they started the planning of attacking journalists by taking a leaf from dirty playbook of dictatorial regimes. They were identified the day they made the plan of gagging Pakistani media. Yet, despite knowing them, no one is willing to name them. They are amongst us. Around us. Within us. Yet, they would remain nameless. Faceless.

It’s in the interest of kleptocratic mafia to hide the CCTV footage of the incident. Billions were not spent on the safe city project to identify the attackers who are in plain sight. No one would answer the question if it was a job facilitated from inside by telling the attackers particular blind spots in CCTV coverage of Islamabad. No one would reveal geo fencing data to reveal how the attackers communicated to follow Ahmed Noorani.

The question about who knew about movements of Ahmed Noorani would also not be answered. Only a select few knew that Ahmed Noorani would go to Rawalpindi on the day of the attack and take a route which he normally didn’t take for going to office everyday. Answering such questions is embarrassing. Answers to such questions proved to be an embarrassment when investigations were carried out to find killers of journalist Wali Khan Babar.

Answers to such questions were hidden in the Hamid Mir Commission report after the brave journalist Hamid Mir was attacked in 2014. The government lawyer is opposing my petition in the Islamabad High Court to make the Hamid Mir Commission report public for a reason.

If Hamid Mir Commission report is made public, it would be embarrassing for political reasons. The attackers would be identified. So, despite PM making a declaration that Hamid Mir Commission report would be made public, it has not been made public to shield the attackers.

Attacks on journalists are a physical manifestation of the dictatorial mindset which registers FIRs against journalists for filing a story not liked by the regime. It’s the same mindset which for political reasons to placate the revolting MNAs tells them that they shot the messenger by registering FIR.

The physical attack on Ahmed Noorani is a manifestation of the mindset which uses PEMRA, an institution created by a dictator, to control the media. Those who physically attacked Ahmed Noorani are of the same mindset which believes in closing down TV channels by being moral policemen and celebrating the same by giving figures of fines imposed and programmes off-aired through dictatorial tools like PEMRA. To top it all, the hypocrisy is manifested through someone who pretended to be a journalist but assured his paymasters that he would lead the moral policing brigade to gag independent voices critical of the regime in power. The number of gagging actions taken by PEMRA against independent media during the last four and half years of PMLN government surpasses the combined gagging actions taken during the military rules of Ayub, Zia and Musharraf combined.

The beneficiaries of the physical attack on Ahmed Noorani are the same who boycott TV channels and try to economically strangulate voices not liked by the regime through banning of government advertisements for the dissenting channels and publications.

We know the attackers and their protectors. We know who the beneficiaries are. We know who has control of the command and control system of safe city project in Islamabad. And, we know why they would not reveal the names of the attackers once again as they were suspected to be facilitated from within. As the government continues to hide the Hamid Mir Commission report, it is unlikely that attackers of Ahmed Noorani would be identified, let alone prosecuted to reveal the real faces who planned the attacks through dictatorial mindset in democratic camouflage.