Iftikhar Ahmad (Born 1950) is a journalist and a political activist. He currently serves as an editor for Daily Jang, as Director Elections, Investigates and Special Projects for Geo News and also hosts the popular Pakistani interview show JAWAB DEYH on Geo TV.With over 30 years of experience and very extensive research, Iftikhar Ahmad is known for his incisive and aggressive style of journalism.
Ahmad was educated in Lahore. He attended Central Model High School. He is also said to have attended Modern Anglo Oriental College (MAO), Government College (GC) and the University of the Punjab (PU).
Ahmad spent quite some time of his childhood with his grandfather Maulana Hifz-ur-Rehman who was a very keen reader. Ahmad picked up the habit of reading books since a very young age. He was 15 when he along with a friend from the local library crossed a minefield on bicycle to kill Indian soldiers on Wagha Border in the War of 1965. In the end he managed only to be fed military ration and sent back with an escort by the astonished Pakistani soldiers.
He also managed to defeat his opponent by a large margin in school elections for presidency at Central Model High school. He achieved this feat while he was still in Grade 8 whereas his opponent came from 10th Grade.
In November 1967, at the age of 17 Ahmad became a founding member Pakistan Peoples Party.
Ahmad has been a political activist as well. He participated in the movement against General Ayub Khan, and later became one of the early members of Pakistan Peoples Party.
His political philosophy was very much in line with the socialist ideas and he was mesmerized by Z.A. Bhutto.
Ahmad served multiple jail terms under the martial law governments for various violations of MPO. He was sent to the Sibbi Central Jail, Shahpur Central Jail, Camp Jail Lahore and the notorious Lahore Fort.
Ahmad has also served as adviser to one Chief Minister and two Governors of Punjab.
His political philosophy is that the real political divide is always between the poor and the rich.
He argues that Pakistan may never see a leader better than Z.A Bhutto, and a slogan better than “Roti, Kapra aur Makan”.
Ahmad started his journalism career in 1980 and worked for various publications including Daily Aftab and Daily Pakistan. He has been working for Daily Jang since 1986. In the 1980s Ahmad introduced personal interviews of politicians; these were different in the way that for the first time politicians divulged private information as well. Ahmad through his interviews for Daily Jang set a new trend in Pakistani journalism.
Ahmad is also the brain behind Jang Group’s Election Cell. He has run it with pride since 1988, and has covered more than five elections. He takes great pride in the accuracy of his results which are delivered to general public many hours before an official announcement is made. In this regard he is also credited with heading the 2002 election campaign where the Geo Election Cell became a flagship of the Geo brand. This live election telecast helped Geo take off with a bang.
Ahmad has also worked closely with the Geo News Admin and fellow friend and journalist Hamid Mir on the Zarra Sochiye campaign. A campaign which aimed to start debate on issues that divide us, after the broadcast of the debate on Hudood Ordinance, the National assembly of Pakistan had to ratify the Hudood Ordinance.
Controversy – pleading the case for Bhutto
Ahmad through his program Jawabdeh has questioned several key power players of the coup of General Zia ul Haq and the subsequent hanging of the then elected Prime Minister Z.A. Bhutto.
In these interviews, some of these people spilled the beans about Zia’s real intentions. For instance, Justice Naseem Hassan Shah, who was a member of the bench of Pakistan Supreme Court which upheld Bhutto’s death sentence. In his interview with Ahmad, he admitted that he should have voted against the hanging and felt bad for not doing so. He also admitted that there was not enough evidence to put Bhutto on death row.
Ahmad has done at least 40 interviews which even though very relevant from an historical point but are seen by many as an attempt to absolve Bhutto.
Due to the special and, some argue, undue attention attention paid, and thorough probing done by Ahmad of a certain lost period of Pakistani history (from 1977 to 1988) he has been labeled quite often as a Bhutto loyalist, or a Bhuttoist.
He is said to have over-glorified Mr Bhutto and has been accused of trying to resurrect Bhutto by some senior politicians.
The opponents also point out that Ahmad still maintains close relations with the Pakistan People Party Cadre.
His Interview of Naseem Hassan Shah led to the PPP to make the decision to file for the reopening of the Case of Mr Bhutto. The interview also served as the basis of a lawsuit against Mr Naseem Hassan Shah in which the claiment claimed that after Mr Naseem Hassan Shah’s admission in the interview that the decision to hang “Bhutto Sahib” had been forced upon them by Zia-ul-Haq.
Ahmad’s Program and the Court Case
Perhaps the only time in Pakistans’ Judicial History that a petition against a Former Chief Justice of Supreme Court of Pakistan was filed, seeking registration of a case against him on charges of abetting in the “murder” of former Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.
One member of the bench remarked;
In a situation where the judgment of a case was effective for citation as a reference, an ambiguous statement of one of the members of a panel of judges hearing the case, could in no way prejudice the decision after two decades. If such things were allowed to happen, the whole judicial system would collapse. (PLF) leader Hanif Tahir had quoted the former chief justice as saying in two of his press interviews that the Supreme Court judgment in the appeal of the late Bhutto against his death sentence awarded by the Lahore High Court, was a wrong decision and it was a fit case for lesser punishment.
The petitioner submitted that Mr Shah was part of the 7-member bench of the Supreme Court which upheld the death penalty. He contended that comments of the former chief justice amounted to a confessional statement and that he had shown no such sentiments while agreeing with the majority opinion of apex court’s bench which confirmed the execution of Mr Bhutto.
The petitioner started with quotes from the interview of Mr Shah done by Iftikhar Ahmad of Jawabdeyh. The court asked him if such quotes, taken from a television interview, carried any legal significance. When the petitioner submitted that the text of interview was a “public document”, the court asked the lawyer to define the legality of public documents and remarked that points raised in the petition were based on hearsay.
As for petitioner’s contention that Mr Shah had made a confessional statement in his interview, the court directed him to examine the relevant law to know what a confessional statement was and if it carried a legal weight if given on a non-judicial or extrajudicial forum. He must also differentiate between a press statement and a legal statement recorded in a court of law. The bench of the Lahore High Court on February 12, 2004 dismissed in limina.
Resignation in protest
It was reported 17 November 2008 that he resigned from Geo TV in protest over its refusal to broadcast his interview with Shahid Masood. He alleged that he was earlier pressured to censor certain portions of the said interview, which he declined.
The Geo TV administration retracted from their position and the complete interview was broadcast the following week. After the program went on air, Ahmad took back his resignation. Ahmad still insists that no compromises can be made where principles are concerned.