The other day, while traveling between Islamabad and Muzaffarabad, I noticed a queue of hundreds of vehicles near Banni Pari village which had been stopped by the Frontier Works Organization (FWO) without any warning as they were carrying out road construction in the area.
When I got down and ask FWO personnel after introducing myself that why didn't they detail someone at Jheeka Galli to guide/inform the motorists to take alternative route if the road had to be blocked for 3 hours, much to my horror I had to face the most hostile attitude from them, mainly because being a (commercial) subsidiary of Pakistan army they considered themselves above questioning.
An official in civvies, who introduced himself to me as Major Hassan, said it was not his responsibility to depute anyone to inform the motorists/commuters at Jheeka Galli about the road blockade and that I was nobody to ask such questions to him and instead I should talk to the DC (DCO) and other administration officials in this regard.
When reminded that he was working for a commercial entity which had to do public dealing, he retorted: "I am not a bloody contractor."
That was not the end. He went on to warn me that if I uttered a single more word, he would get me arrested. And when I said, ok go ahead if you can, he called all the workers and asked them to arrest me. The workers, who said if they are in civvies it does not mean anyone should come and put them any question, pushed and shoved me.
"Don't talk to our sahib, first talk to us," they shouted at me.
The major said: Now if other motorists will be allowed to drive past this road after 40 minutes, you will be allowed after 50 minutes.
He then asked his men to remove me from "our project side." who started doing it by pushing and shoving me.
I brought this incident immediately in the notice of my office but there was no action perhaps because it was my "personal affair."
But by sharing it on this forum I just want to draw attention of my colleagues that when we our organisations remain silent on such threatening tones, when they fail to take such issues at appropriate levels, pugnacious people wielding authority feel further energized to do anything they want.
I am sure the Major who confronted me will now definitely be thinking that if he can frighten off a journalist, notwithstanding the fact he could highlight his hostile attitude through media, why not any other ordinary mortal.
I wish we journalist community raises a forum of its own where such incidents are recorded and taken appropriate care of, even if their managements turn a blind eye towards it..
Staff Correspondent DAWN
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