While government’s swift action to raid the offices of an IT company after it was named in a story of the New York Times is commendable, it is quite natural to expect that the government would be vigilante and would closely monitor the activities of all such companies who bring bad name to the country. This is another matter that it has always been looking the other way when international media was flashing stories of corruption of the political elite.
It is interesting to note that our political elite is known for riding into the corridors of power on the back of fake degrees and yet it found it appropriate to publically paint the entity, Axact, as a convict even before a formal inquiry was launched. The company which has been alleged to have minted money in hard currencies by selling degrees of questionable institutions to largely unaware students has previously been in the limelight, though for a different reason. Not only the Times, the reporter Declan Walsh but also the media industry of Pakistan is baying for the blood of Axact and the Times story was leading story of all the news bulletin of both print and electronic media.
Apart from the government which was swiftly at the throat of Axact for issuing fake degrees as alleged by Declan Walsh of New York Times, there are two other aspects to this scandal which must be kept in view. There was an organized campaign to stall the launch of a new satellite channel BOL by the media moguls, more notably Geo News who fears the new competitor. In the beginning, a campaign was launched through Indian media saying Pakistan’s premier intelligence agency, ISI was behind the scheduled launch of BOL. Then it was alleged that an Indian underworld don, who is also fugitive from the law, was funding this new channel. The purpose was clearly to paint the channel as being funded from the proceeds of crimes. The trick didn’t work, though. BOL attracted all top-of-the-line anchors of other channels at hefty compensation package much before the launch thus robbing the industry of their cream “bread-winners”.
The second aspect of this story is the messenger; Mr Declan Walsh of New York Times who worked on this story. In spite of many loopholes in the story, he seems to have worked very hard to make a case against Axact. The newspaper is religiously following up on this story. It is not known what will be the end of this story; whether it will stick or the Times will have to tender an apology like in the past is yet to be seen.
Mr. Walsh does not enjoy a good reputation with the security establishment of Pakistan and this also include the civilian apparatus. He was found to be in close liaison with Balochistan separatists and was kicked out of the country. According to a report published by Express Tribune, a partner publication of the Times in July 2013, Declan Walsh was blacklisted, declared a persona non grata and asked to leave the country. Walsh, who has been covering Pakistan for the New York Times from London, has said in his letter that “The New York Times has been unable to ascertain the reasons for the visa cancellation, other than the “undesirable activities” that were cited in the interior ministry letter. I have been based in Pakistan since 2004 and I hope that my record speaks for itself.”
The Tribune quotes a report prepared by an intelligence agency, saying Walsh was expelled due to false journalism against Pakistan and violating his terms of stay by visiting prohibited areas without a no objection certificate (NOC). The journalist has, overtime, produced inaccurate and defamatory pieces about Pakistan with one creating the impression that the country’s nuclear weapons storage areas were being attacked.
The report said that the journalist was frequently advised to refrain from violating procedures. Nevertheless, disregarding instructions he continued to visit various no-go areas without clearance. He has friends in high places in Pakistan which is evident from the fact despite the ministry of Interior recommending non-extension of his visa, he managed to secure a one-year extension using political influence.
Axact may not be an angel but it is important to ensure that action against the company is not motivated by vested interests under the pressure of international establishment which, it seems, is being built through a sustained campaign by the NYT.