Najam Sethi Profile
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Najam Sethi Urdu: نجم سیٹھی; born c. 1948) is the 16th and current (caretaker) chief minister of Punjab, an award-winning Pakistani journalist and media personality, is the editor-in-chief of The Friday Times, a Lahore-based political weekly. He was previously the editor ofDaily Times and Daily Aajkal newspapers. He is currently the Editor in Chief of Geo News where he hosts a popular political program: “aapas ki baat”. He is the only journalist in Asia to receive three international press freedom awards in a decade.
Najam Sethi Education
Sethi graduated from Government College, Lahore, Pakistan, in 1967. He was awarded the Presidents Gold Medal topping Punjab University. He took a BA Hons degree in Economics from Cambridge University, UK, in 1970 and was awarded the Davies Prize by Clare College, where he later spent a year as a PhD research fellow.
Najam Sethi Personal life
Sethi was born in May, 1948. He is married to Jugnu Mohsin who is Managing Editor of The Friday Times and Good Times. Their son Ali Sethi is a novelist and daughter Mira Sethi works at the Wall Street Journal in New York.
Sethi was a political prisoner from 1975-1977 during the regime of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto for protesting military action in Balochistan. In 1984, the regime of General Zia ul Haq put him in prison for one month for publishing “From Jinnah To Zia”, a book authored by the former chief justice of the Supreme Court of Pakistan, Justice Mohammad Munir. The book was a sort of mea culpa in which the author had admitted his grave error in legitimizing the first martial law in Pakistan in 1958, thereby paving the way for Gen Zia’s martial law in 1977.
In 1999, he was again imprisoned by the government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on trumped up charges of treason. The reason was relentless exposure of corruption in the Sharif family by The Friday Times. The Supreme Court of Pakistan later rejected the charges and freed him after one month. While in detention, he was tortured and suffered a heart attack, which necessitated heart surgery in 2000. The Sharif government harassed him later by slapping dozens of income tax cases, accused him of being a “non-Muslim” and tried to deprive him of his voting rights. But all the cases were dismissed by the courts and the his rights were restored by the Chief Election Commissioner.
Najam Sethi Career
- Vanguard Books
- In 1978, he established Vanguard Books, an independent, liberal, publishing house, which has published over 400 titles since then in history, politics and economics.
- Friday Times
- In 1989, along with his wife, he launched The Friday Times (TFT), an independent national weekly, which espouses secular internationalism, human rights, regional peace and democracy. Newsweek Magazine described him in the 1990s as a “crusading editor” for exposing corruption in government. He has unfailingly written the editorials of the paper every week since 1989.
- Daily Times
- In 2002, he launched Daily Times. Its editorials constantly argued for peace with India, supported the war against Taliban-Al-Qaeda terror; and opposed religious fundamentalism and extremism.
- In August 2008, he launched AajKal, a national Urdu daily, published from Lahore, Karachi and Islamabad. He resigned from both papers in October 2009 after disagreements with its management over various issues.
- Beyond Borders
- In 2007, he set up Beyond Borders, a public interest production company for South Asia television channels. The mission statement of this project is to promote South Asian cultures, build confidence and trust; and sustain democracy, civil society and human rights in the region. The company has produced 13 short films on the partition of the subcontinent in 1947 based on the short stories of the grand literary masters of India and Pakistan. It has also produced a 13 part serial titled ROOTS, which is a compilation of interviews of famous Indians and Pakistanis who crossed over to the “other” country at the time of partition and have inspiring stories to tell of the warmth, love, humanity and affection of the “other” community.
- Dunya News
- Mr. Sethi joined Dunya News in 2009 and hosted his program thrice a week.
- Geo/Jang Group
- He joined the Geo/Jang Group in Jan 2011 as group adviser political affairs. He would host three weekly shows on Geo TV and write regular news analyses and commentary for Jang Group of Newspapers, including The News.
- Death Threats
- In 2007-8, he received open death threats from the Taliban-Al Qaeda for supporting the war against terrorism. The Taliban’s mouthpiece in Waziristan did a cover story in which it identified Najam Sethi as an “enemy of Islam”. Radical Islamists demonstrated against his papers in Islamabad and openly called for his elimination.
Najam Sethi Awards
He has been awarded the 2009 Golden Pen of Freedom, the annual press freedom prize of the World Editors Forum/ World Association of Newspapers for courage in upholding secular values, human rights and press freedom. He has also received Courage in Journalism Award 1999 from Amnesty International, Press Freedom Award 1999 from Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) New York, and Hilal i Imtiaz, the highest civil award of the country, from the Government of Pakistan in 2010.