The Karachi head offices of Pakistani news channel Geo News and its owner Jang group was attacked by a larger number of protestors today. According to a report by Geo News, the proctors attached the staff at the office, and damaged furniture and fixtures.
The protests were carried out by nationalist groups of Sindhi people, against the comments of Geo journalist Irshad Bhatti. The journalist is accused of continuously mocking the Sindhi community in his ‘Khabarnak’ program on Geo TV. The patience of people ran out when earlier this month, Irshad Bhatti called the Sindhi people ‘bhookhe nangey’ (hungry and naked) in his program.
In his talk show with Pakistan Peoples Party chief Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, Irshad Bhatti started the program with introducing Zardari as millionaire leader of bhukhe-nange people, and had said that there are lots of bhukhe nange people in Sindh. He also said lots of bhukhe nange people come to attend rallies of Zardari, who are not even paid for the same. Irshad said that bhukhe nange people are brought to PPP rallies promising money, but later they are not paid.
Agitated with this comment, a protest march was scheduled for today. But when the protestors reached the Geo office, it turned violent and the protestors resorted to vandalism. The protestors tore down a walk-through gate and broke through the main gate of the office located on I.I. Chundrigar road, in Karachi. Geo News claimed that the protestors harassed the staff in the building, which included women employees. The protestors also held a sit-in protest inside the office.
The news channel released photographs from their office showing broken glass panels lying in the reception area of the office. They also claimed that police remained a mute spectator while their office was being vandalised.
The channel also presented a clarification from Irshad Bhatti, claiming that he did not mean to disrespect the Sindh province or Sindhi language in his show. He said that his program is a program of satire and comedy, and Sindh and Sindhi are part of his existence in the same way as any other province of the country.
Geo News Managing Director Azhar Abbas posted a tweet condemning the attack, and questioned the alleged inaction of police. “Strongly condemn attack on offices of Geo and Jang. The vandalised the reception area and beat our Caneraman and staff. Where is the Govt??” he tweeted. The channel also claimed that the protest had been announced in advance but “there were no law enforcement officers present”.
According to Pakistani social media users, the protest that turned violent was led by PPP (Pakistan Peoples Party), and the social media users condemned the media house for failing to name its attackers.
Journalist Hamid Mir tweeted that the man seen in footages from the incident in black glasses and mike in his hand is responsible for the attack. But he also refrained from identifying the man, Dunya News journalist Mushtaq Sarki.