When the Pakistani government announced that they would allow the family of Kulbhushan Jadhav to visit Islamabad and meet with the imprisoned Indian in Pakistan, it seemed like relations between the two neighbours were going to move in a positive direction, and that too after a long time.
But this hope for progress was short-lived, and if anything, the relations have actually worsened, ever since 25th of December when the wife and mother of Mr. Jadhav met him at the Ministry of Foreign Office's compound in the Pakistani capital. Shortly after the meeting, the Ministry of External Affairs in Delhi lambasted the treatment Jadhav's family received during their one-day-long stay in Pakistan. Their counterparts in Islamabad refuted the accusations of ill-treatment, citing security protocol for the treatment the two women were subjected to. Insiders say that the meet-up was not in the hands of the civilian authorities, and the military was in charge of all affairs and therefore concerns for security overshadowed considerations for hospitality.
Adding fuel to this fire is the Line of Control (LoC), which has also heated up, and may very well be linked to the fall-out from the Jadhav meet-up.
But as is always the case with the LoC - both sides have a different version of what has happened there and it is almost impossible to independently verify the information disseminated by the militaries on both sides.
In this latest cross-border incident, Pakistan claims to have lost three of its soldiers while thwarting an Indian-backed non-state actors' infiltration bid. The government further claimed that the non-state actors were attempting to plant mines on the Pakistani side of the border.
On the other hand, India says its soldiers went inside Pakistani territory and killed three enemy soldiers in retaliation to Indian uniformed men killed a day earlier.
What really happened? We may never get to know. And while on both sides the military guns have gone silent for now, the diplomatic spat continues with the latest controversy surfaced on Wednesday over the missing shoes of the wife of Jadhav, which the Pakistani officials confiscated, claiming that the shoes had some metallic object hidden in them. The shoe has been sent for testing at a lab.
Somedays we do a story tht disgusts us. Today was one such day. But it wasnt cuz of what I covered. Rather it was cuz of how my fellow journos behaved with mother & wife of #KulbushanJadhav whn they left FO building. They shouted taunts. It was very shameful
— Taha Siddiqui (@TahaSSiddiqui) December 25, 2017
As a Pakistani journalist working for an Indian news outlet, I have been covering all of the happenings closely, and most of it is repetitive of what I have seen before, thus making it quite predictable. But there is one aspect this time that was and continues to surprise or rather shock me: the behaviour of my fellow journalists who waited alongside me at the Pakistan Foreign Office complex for the arrival and exit of Jadhav's relatives accompanied by an Indian diplomat.
Many of these journalists are familiar faces at Foreign Office briefings and have a number of years of experience before being allotted such an important news beat to cover. And yet on Monday, when they were covering the meet-up, they seemed to have lost all sense of ethics when it comes to reporting.
In my profession, it is understandable to ask questions even if the subject is unwilling to answer them, and since the advent of television news, such interactions are often aired to show the audience the reluctance of the subjects being covered and make a point.
But that day, the reporters did not ask questions, especially when the family was leaving the venue.
They shouted accusations, allegations and slogans at the two women who may have met their loved one for the last time, given that Jadhav is on death row and can be executed any day.
Whatever his alleged crimes are, the two women did not deserve such harassment, and that too from supposedly trained professionals.
One reporter screamed how Jadhav's mother felt "being a parent to a terrorist?" Another one asked the wife if she supported her husband who was "a killer of hundreds of Pakistanis?" Another one asked if the women "felt ashamed of his activities?"
The Pakistani Foreign Office had ensured that the reporters stayed at a distance so there was no up close interaction, and we did stand at a distance from the trio when they were exiting. But I had heard one of the government officials promising some of the journalists "an interaction" with the family once they came out. And not so surprisingly, when they exited the building, the Pakistani government's vehicle they were to be transported back was nowhere to be seen, giving enough time for the journalists to hurl taunts at the Indian visitors. As the four-wheeler arrived and the guests sat inside it, another journalist went even one step further and started to chant "Pakistan Zindabad" (Long-live Pakistan). This riled up others around too, and soon a large number of them joined in the chorus. Only once the vehicle was out of sight did they stop their self-perceived patriotic demeanour.
While all this may have taken then less than ten minutes to transpire, it left me in a shock. Also, I felt like I was the only one who thought this was wrong, as I saw most of my brethren pack-up and move away from the location. Some of them even laughed about how they did a great job.
I thought of talking to the foreign office officials about it, since they could perhaps put some sense into the reporters who misbehaved this way. But I stopped myself short of doing so, when I received a message, sent out to journalists on the Pakistani Foreign Office WhatsApp list, thanking everyone for "being responsible media."
I did not know what else to do but to report it for my channel. But I also decided to tweet about it - not only vent out the disgust I felt but also tell my neighbors that among the journalists present to cover the meeting between Jadhav and his family, reporters like me were also present who have publicly condemned such conduct by my fellow colleagues. Thankfully, the tweet has gone viral since then. And while the Indians may think that all Pakistani media personnel is unprofessional, I hope to give them a reason to think otherwise.
(Taha Siddiqui is WION's Pakistan Bureau Chief, and looks after news and current affairs in the Afghanistan, Pakistan region. He has reported for leading international news organisations including the New York Times, the Guardian and France24.)
(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed above are the personal views of the author and do not reflect the views of ZMCL.)