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Good Bye, Ejaz Raisani


by Malik Siraj Akbar

I know what killed Ejaz: The pressure of pleasing his bosses. He wanted to impress them with the good quality of his work. It had been hardly a few days since thirty-year old Ejaz Raisani had joined the news media outlet, Samaa TV. All of us who knew Ejaz very closely knew one thing with certainty: He worked well and was paid too little in return.

Ejaz passed away Monday morning after succumbing to his injuries. He was among the eight journalists/cameraman who were injured while covering a religious procession in Balochistan capital Quetta. While some of the journalists received injuries due to the suicide bomb blast, the others were targeted in the subsequent firing by elements related to the banned religious organization that masterminded the carnage. Ejaz was shifted to the Combined Military Hospital (CMH) for medical treatment after receiving splinters in his lungs. He remained under treatment for two days but did not recover until the doctors pronounced him dead after a failed operation.

Ejaz leaves a wife and two little kids i.e. five-year old Faiza and Muzhafar,3.

Those who worked closely with Ejaz will confirm his commitment to journalism. He was one of the most talented professionals I knew in Quetta. The best thing about him was his willingness to overcome his weaknesses and learn new techniques. Before coming to the US, I had met him outside the Visitors’ Room of Quetta Press Club. He was in a hurry as if he was trying to rush to cover a story.

“Why are you in a hurry?” I asked Ejaz.

“Wo Malik sahib…ajkal main English classes lay ra hun[ I am taking English (language) classes],” he replied.

He was referring to the newly started English language classes at Quetta Press Club. It was encouraging that several journalists, photographers and cameramen, including Ejaz, had decided to enroll in an English language course to improve their professional skills. I was surprised how these cameramen would wake up early in the morning and make it to the 8:00 a.m. class. Journalists are not known anywhere in the world as early risers.On the other hand, cameramen and press photographers have it very hard in Quetta these days as they are required to cover several events per day.

I figured out why Ejaz was talking interest in English language courses. He used to regularly visit me to discuss his professional problems. He’d always ask me to team-up with him to prepare some documentary movies in English language. He’d wish with a toothless smile that he had a good command on English. He had received an offer from Press TV, an Iranian news channel in English language, to work for them in Quetta. Too generous to pave the way for the others, Ejaz walked to my office at the Universal Complex and asked me to work for the Press TV as he thought my English was good enough to do so.

I was interested to work with a TV team but told him that I had no prior experience.

“Malik sahib aap tension na lain,” (You should not take tension, Malik), ” main apko sab kuch seka dunga” ( I will teach you everything). Ejaz would call me up regularly to find out what I was doing and if I had made up my mind to work with him on a documentary which he thought would be of international standards. He trusted himself and realized his potential. He was kind of a journalist who would always think out of the box.

”Ejaz kia khabrin hain aaj (Ejaz, what is the news),” I’d ask him.

”Kuch nain hey Malik sahib. Quetta main kia khabrin hain. Chalo Quetta say bahar chalthy hain main or aap kisi bari story ki talash main (Nothing, Malik. There is nothing in Quetta. Let’s team-up and go outside Quetta to search for a big story).

The problem with these men who search for “big stories” in today’s Pakistan is that they end up being big stories themselves. Ejaz was a very perfectionist who would get upset if the quality of his work did not meet high standards.

He was very displeased with his previous employer. He once asked me to write a letter to the Director News of his TV channel, ARY One World, to complain about paying him less salary than even those who had joined the news channel much later on. I’d ask why he didn’t think of quitting. He’d laugh and say, ” Malik bahi. App koi English channel dond lain. Main Apkay sath kam karonga. Local channels ka koi maza nain hey [You should find an English channel (to work with) and I will work with you. The local channels have no charm."

When we started the Baloch Hal, Ejaz became our most regular contributor to the Citizen Journalist section. He would send me too many photographs from different parts of Balochistan. I had never known that cameraman Ejaz Raisani was such a good photographer as well. He was a man full of ideas. He offered to work voluntarily for the Baloch Hal if we planned to start an online video news service. I thanked his offer politely saying that we did not have human and financial resources to go with the TV part of the Baloch Hal at this stage. He said he was always there to help us in the future. I hope we will one day make Ejaz’s dream come true and dedicate the video service of this newspaper to Ejaz, who dreamed for the Baloch Hal.

Ejaz’s tragic killing is a grim reminder of the hardships under which the journalists in Balochistan work. The threat facing the safety of journalists is multi-pronged. Something must urgently be done to train the journalists working in conflict zones. Otherwise, they will be killed one after the other. The conflicts in our country have taken a very ugly turn. Parties involved in armed conflicts have no regard at all for the press. They think the media is as much a threat as their actual enemy. One of the reasons for attacking the journalists in Friday’s blast was the assumption of the attackers that the journalists were collecting evidence against them by filming them. Thus, they deemed it necessary to shoot all the journalists engaged in covering the procession.

I sincerely hope that the management of Samaa TV will take good care of Ejaz’s family, especially Faiza and Muzhafar. Their future should be taken care of. They are the children of a star press cameraman who died while sticking to his hazardous profession. Its beyond one’s imagination what it feels like losing a family member a week before the Eid.

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Faiz Baluch