Salman Siddiqui

A Karachi-based investigative reporter for The Express Tribune.

How many bodies will I count this year?

One of the most frequent questions I’m asked is whether we will see a resurgence of violence in 2012 like the one we saw in Karachi during 2011. This is because of the nature of my work, which is mostly about keeping count of the dead. Although it sounds morbid, it really is not as bad as what my other colleague does, an obituary writer who earns his living by going to graveyards almost every day. Cynical journalists among our group often joke that while “one kills, the other buries (aik marta hay, dosra dafnata hay).” I’m neither a clairvoyant nor a ...

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The last refuge of a scoundrel

Not a day goes by when I don’t feel disgusted by some within my own profession. They range from journalists who will do almost anything for a free lunch and those who will rub shoulders with almost any man in power in order to gain whatever personal favours they can fathom. Recently I was accused of being ‘anti-state,’ and a ‘RAW agent’. And all this because I pointed out how one particular TV talk show host was claiming to be working for free in an event paid for by taxpayer money. Since then, many powerful people have called me up and ...

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Mirror images of your interview subject

Some beat reporters end up looking like the people they cover after a brief period of time. Like married couples who tend to resemble each other physically and in mannerism as they age together, reporters too tend to look like police inspectors, politicians, civil servants, judges and in some cases even like criminals and militants after spending so many hours with them. Cases in point are my own friends in the media industry. A crime reporter boastfully narrated that one time at a restaurant, a waiter was so impressed with his former DG FIA Waseem-Ahmed type looks, complete with a ...

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“Who is going to save you from me?”

The first time someone pointed a gun at me was a policeman. I can never forget the perspiring sight of the officer with rabid blood shot eyes, who breathed heavily while holding the trigger to a pistol pointed straight at my teenage face. The year was 1999 and I was studying at DJ Science college in Karachi. My friend Faraz had offered me and another buddy Imran a ride home on his motorbike after classes. Little did we know that there was a ban on pillion riding at that time. And to add insult to injury, we were not two, but three ...

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When money is involved in journalism

One of the many lessons I’ve learnt in the profession of journalism is that there are always strings attached when a flock of top media personalities are in full attendance when, let’s say, a boring yet important issue like maternal healthcare is discussed at a five-star hotel. I was recently invited to attend one such ‘interactive’ event organised by a leading NGO in Karachi. It was a lively discussion and I was really impressed that many important people not only flew all the way from Islamabad, but also braved through the five-hour long session. As the event progressed, those belonging to ...

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When reporting falls short

Sometimes I wonder whether reporting an incident and having it published is enough. I began to ask myself that a lot more when recently I went to investigate a target killing case in a neighbourhood of Karachi. The story is of an 18-year-old girl, whose father was killed by unidentified gunmen with a single shot to his head one evening as he was returning home from work. He had no political or religious party leanings. He was just an average middle-class widower, who happened to live in a troubled neighbourhood and was making an honest living for his small family. As I ...

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