June 13, 2012
Z B Saigol
KARACHI: The lull that preceded the storm at DawnNews was most misleading. The build-up was, at the most, a murmur. Despite insiders continuing to insist trouble was brewing in a big way there was nary a sign of anything remotely disconcerting on the horizon.
And then the storm struck swiftly and tellingly from an unexpected direction. In its wake were left behind more than a few shattered egos and tattered reputations. In the eye of the storm was a man few would have looked at sideways just a year ago leave alone locked horns with. That man was Zahid Mazhar, the relatively new editor.
And what a man he has turned out to be. The media industry is suddenly buzzing with his name and the turmoil surrounding it.
The question though is: Who is Zahid Mazhar?
Until a few months ago he was relatively unknown. At the most, if one inquired, it was likely you would be told rather indifferently, “Oh, he worked at Samaa, can’t remember him much,” and this illuminating statement would always be followed by a protracted pause.
“Oh… he was a nice guy. He was okay.”
Seemed like a pretty harmless fellow until he decided to take on the big boys at DawnNews: Talat Hussain, Matiullah Jan, Mubashir Zaidi, Azaz Syed, and Abdul Shakoor Khan.
Four of those guys are as good as gone while Talat, the DawnNews senior anchor, reportedly twice phoned Zahid in a bid to stay on. If reports are to be believed, it is now said he has made amends with the good editor.
This means Zahid Mazhar is not just any guy anymore. He not only had the balls to stand up to these veterans of newsroom politics but quite plainly had them on the run with their tails between their legs.
And now the not-so-pleasant stories are coming out on the folk that Zahid Mazhar did not want in his team. The so-called “google groups/forums” are having a field day putting down the likes of Talat, Mati and Mubashir Zaidi. Snide remarks and rumors; talk of ‘cowardly behavior’, expulsions from the military academy at Kakul, plots of land, favoritism, unhappiness with designations etc. are pouring in from all directions.
But all this spiteful stuff never hurt such thick skinned ‘veterans’ and ‘seniors’ before and are unlikely to have any kind of major impact on them now. None of this would have been possible if it had not been for Zahid Mazhar?
So exactly who is he?
From what I have gathered through various sources, and I could be wrong, Zahid Mazhar started off at Express before finding his way on to the sports desk as a junior producer at Geo before he was shifted to the main desk in the same capacity. He then became a full-fledged producer and worked quite diligently to climb up the ladder the proper way i.e. through hard work and capability.
“Kaam nikalnay wala banda (One who got the work done)”, a former Geo colleague said.
But it was Samaa that shaped Zahid Mazhar and he rose from being a producer to controller news. The swift rise to the top was credited to good people skills, hard work and ‘a touch of decency,’ I’m told by some of his colleagues from Samaa.
One senior reporter remembers him thus: “He was soft spoken, polite and very cooperative. I can’t imagine him doing half the things he has been accused of by some people who have written to those ‘Google groups.’
Those ‘things’ written about Zahid Mazhar in the ‘Google groups’, included shouting and yelling at DawnNews and inciting lower and junior staff to be rude to the likes off Mati and Mubashir Zaidi.
“He would never do something like that,” a former colleague, a producer now working for Dunya informed me. “Zahid Bhai took care of those that worked. He was well liked and respected.”
So this is the man that has thrown those ‘tough’ guys out on their collective ear?
There are a lot of people out here who think he did right. I may or may not agree. Fact is, he has done it and in my book any man who does what he sets out to do is a man worth knowing.
So how did he do it? Rather how did he dare do it?
Well, he told each of the four guys concerned that they were not needed and should look for new jobs. He told Talat he was not happy with his ratings and needed to talk to him or…?
And, much to their chagrin, he did not buckle under the pressure they applied. He stayed put and they found themselves looking for new jobs.
Finally… how did he dare? Well he did.
Initially it was said that Dawn Editor Zafar Abbas was the man standing behind him but that has now been updated to Shakil Masood, the CEO of DawnNews. Much more plausible!
One other outcome of the DawnNews storm is that there have been a handful of resignations at Samaa and these gents are said all set to join DawnNews. The process of being around people that are familiar and can provide comfort is not so new.
Does Zahid Mazhar, if he is the man behind the upheaval at DawnNews, really need these characters from the past?
If history is anything to go by, it’s the guys inside that start the ball rolling. The problem is sometimes that ball becomes too big to handle.
(Z B Saigol is a guest writer)
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