[As I write this piece more than 30 journalists are killed only in Balochistan in the previous five years]
He would always laugh and speak in a humorous style. He would inquire, then criticize political parties particularly those who ever come into power. Then makes some statements relating these parties past and present. And he would ask now look they were “yesterday’s comrade but today’s pure men”.
He was having many sources among every single organization, political party, militant groups and law enforcement agencies. The one thing I still remember was his way to cover his sources from being exposed. And he’d produce a balance report. At the same time he had eyes on political scenario of Balochistan, the Pakistan’s largest province being faced by the Baloch separatist movement and insurgency.
This young looking, creative and well aware journalist was Irsha Mastoi. He among his two staff members at Online News Agency office were shot dead by unknown gunmen. His staff member Ghulam Rasool who was a final year masters student at the department of Mass Communication at the University of Balochistan and another Muhammad Younas the Online News Agency financier died on the spot. Mastoi was rushed to hospital where he succumbed to his injuries.
Mastoi was well known for his brilliant work in a province where media is sandwich between military and militants. Not only are the Baloch militants the active part of the chaotic situation of the province. Here many other groups are active.
One of them is the main Afghan Taliban group Quetta Shura that is said to have presence in this capital city and around the Pashtun populated districts. Including this Afghan militant group many smaller groups like Lashkar eJhangavi to the hard liner Tehreek e Taliban and half a dozen other religious organizations are active in Quetta and around the province. The strict tribal culture of Baloch and Pashtun tribes is another fold to the complexity of the political scenario of Balochistan.
Mastoi was a journalist who played his role to be voice to the voiceless. He never stopped his pen when writing on different topics. Urdu was his first medium for his Online News Agency. He also wrote in English for the popular Magazine Pulse that is having a greater number of readers across Pakistan.
It is not known how the short size Mastoi would take out news from within the circles of the conflicting parties. And then compose them in a blended way that no one would raise a finger on him.
In my last meeting when I arrived at his office. He jokingly said, welcome “government”. I started in a friendly word fire, “Mastoi you’ll never satisfy whether Balochistan get a nationalist government or the government of religious parties”. He laughed and said if he get satisfy then who would play the role of “opposition”. I asked him, if he was journalist or opposition? He replied again smilingly “Malik we should be critique to all who are ruling”.
In real it was the great Mastoi who’ll always cover every assignment. Once I was working with an international news organization and had not having enough stories. When I picked my phone and dialed his number asked him if he could help me naming some stories that I would cover. He asked “Malik you cannot report reality here in Pakistan, so do cover development. Where nobody will harm you and it would be a great help to the people of Balochistan”.
Just got a tweet of senior journalist and Pakistan’s Geo TV anchor Hamid Mir, “
@HamidMirGEO don’t forget Irshad Mastoi killed yesterday in Quetta he wrote article against enforced disappearances on Aug 25 shot on Aug 28″.
Irshad Mastoi is no more with us but we can say with an open mouth that this man was a real journalist who didn’t bow before any sort of blackmailing, pressure groups and even military and militants. In private gathering he would lash every one.
He had studied the left literature and was the stronger follower of democracy. He believed in development and freedom of speech. This pro-democracy mentality of Irshad Mastoi can be fond on his Twitter and Face Book Ids. That’s why such bright men like Mastoi are never recognized as friends but always clicked to the category of foes in a country like we have. And they are silenced with the guns barrel for the reality they write and pursue.
I don’t know who’ll be the next Mastoi from us. Because we live in a country where no one has right of opinion and expression.
In last my salutes to the soul of bravo Irshad Mastoi, his colleagues Ghulam Rasool and Muhammad Younas the financier on the occasion of his uncertain killing.