On January 13th 2017, this very website published a blog by Dr. Nauman Niaz titled The reality check. It was apparently a reply to an earlier blog by a certain Mr. Shehroze Khattak. I was travelling and hadn’t read Dr. Sb.’s reply till someone tagged me in it. I was surprised to find my name in the blog and take great offence to the tone of the piece as well as the insinuations made therein.

While I wasn’t as big a target in the blog as some of the other names mentioned there and acknowledge that I can’t speak on their behalf, I, however, reserve the right to address the questions that were raised over my character or convictions; or ‘my mentality’ of ‘ostracizing’ my mentors; or being ungrateful (along with my entire generation, apparently). It should be noted that despite having a difference of opinions, I have always respected Dr. Sb. and refrained from commenting on the running of PTV or from disclosing what transpired between him and me. In fact, he acknowledged this to me himself that while he thought I was ‘ambitious’, I had never disrespected him and was a professional. Why then was I made a part of the rant? I am still stumped over this question.

I found his blog to be in extremely poor taste. I must start off by pointing out that The Nation should have exercised some editorial discretion and refrained from publishing a piece that was full of unsubstantiated personal attacks and was of poor quality. While this may be true for both the earlier blogs, I am more concerned about the one where questions have been raised over individuals’ mental states, upbringing, mentality, etc. primarily because I was mentioned in it as well. I will now try to address some of the points that I had issues with in the blog and hope to set the record straight. Bear with me.

To start off, I must reiterate that I don’t know Mr. Shehroze Khattak and don’t even follow him on Twitter. But you can’t question the language of his blog and then reply with a blog full of questionable language yourself. Also, when one starts questioning people’s lineage, upbringing or mental state instead of coherent arguments then one may come across as petty. But that’s just my opinion.

“I didn’t want to but I read a blog…” or “I wouldn’t have responded but I had to…”

I would have believed it had Dr. Sb. not replied to earlier blogs on the same website. In fact, even the title of his earlier reply was quite similar to this one (PTV Sports: The reality as it is). Those who follow him also know that he does not take kindly to attacks on Twitter as well and replies to a significant number of negative tweets addressed to him. In fact, he is even known to reply to tweets where he hasn’t been tagged. There have been times when he has asked me along with other PTV employees to respond or reply to tweets against him. As well wishers, time and again we advised him to ignore such tweets since it does not suit someone of his stature to indulge in such activities. As is evident from the blog in question, our advice fell on deaf ears. And as a result, we have a rant of a blog; two if you count this one as well.

Re. Cases of Harassment

It would not be appropriate for me to comment on the aforementioned cases simply because I’m not privy to the details. However, the claim that the case was decided in favour of Dr. Sb., and co yet they settled out of court puzzles me. If Dr. Sb. and other PTV officials were the defendants and won the case then why wasn’t it disposed off? How and why would defendants settle the case outside the court if it was held in their favour? While a settlement out of court is not a conviction, it also doesn’t equate to exoneration. But what would I know? It’s not as if I have a Masters in Law from one of the top universities in the world and almost nine years of legal experience under my belt.

Re. Bazid Khan and Mazhar Arshad

I don’t know them personally but respect their work. However, whatever Dr. Sb wrote and insinuated in the blog was in extremely poor taste and downright insulting, especially in Bazid’s case where the entire paragraph reeks of contempt on the part of the writer. Why would Dr. Sb. feel the need to mention Bazid’s respected father in a derogatory tone or suggest he got to wherever he is through influence rather than merit? What point is he proving by bashing these two in the beginning only to ‘wish’ them well at the end? This is particularly astonishing since none of the gentlemen mentioned in Dr. Sb.’s blog (including myself) were a part of Mr. Khattak’s blog.

Re. Haider Azhar

As stated before, I can’t speak on behalf of anyone else but would now like to address my own case. Whatever I say can be supported with a trail of emails and text messages that I have in my possession. I can even produce witnesses in support of my claims but won’t name them here since they are Dr. Sb.’s employees. Following is a chronological recount of my time with PTV Sports to highlight my relationship with my ‘mentor’.

While I was given my big opportunity in media by PTV Sports, and I am forever grateful for that, I was never “handpicked” by Dr. Sb. as he states in his blog; I was imposed on him by Chairman and MD PTV of the time and I have no qualms about that. The truth is that Dr. Sb. tried time and again to remove me even during the FIFA World Cup only to realize that the programming could not have gone ahead without me. Again there is a trail of emails to support this where he accused me of everything short of JFK’s assassination just after two days of the World Cup transmission.

Even before the World Cup, Dr. Sb. backed out of a number of commitments made to my team and me. He had made offers to us and we had accepted them only for him to back out later on. While the rest of my team declined to go ahead with the World Cup transmission, I was convinced by the then MD to join the transmission.

On innumerable occasions, Dr. Sb. had made commitments to me with regards to programs only for him to back out at the last minute. The peak of this betrayal was at the time of the 2015 ICC CWC where I was left out of the programming despite having my concepts agreed upon in two separate meetings with him. Being overlooked for the 2015 ICC CWC was particularly hard to swallow especially since Dr. Sb. stated it in front of many people that I was clearly the second best anchor/host on the channel. First being Dr. Sb. himself, of course.

This, along with the fact that I had not been paid by PTV Sports for the regular programming that I was a part of, left me with no choice but to part ways with the organization. In March of 2015, I was offered a primetime slot on NEO TV and I took the opportunity.

In the meanwhile, Kick Off got sponsored by a multi-national brand and became the only show on PTV Sports apart from event programming that got sponsored. Dr. Sb. came to Lahore and invited me to dinner at a restaurant. There, Dr. Sb. apologized to me for the wrongs that were done to me and urged me to come back since the sponsors wanted me as the host (his words not mine). I refused in the beginning but accepted the offer to return only after Dr. Sb. agreed to my terms, including full payment of outstanding dues and the promise that I’d be given cricket programming as well. Apart from Dr. Sb. and myself, there are three other witnesses to this episode.

After rejoining, Dr. Sb. asked me to take over Journo Eyes because he wanted to remove the host from the show. He felt the host was conspiring against him. I refused to do so because it was logistically difficult for me to take the assignment in Islamabad and also because I personally knew the host and felt that it wouldn’t be right. That resulted in Dr. Sb. thinking that I, too, was party to a conspiracy against him, an allegation quite amusing to me since I had defended him on a number of occasions before various forums. I tried to assure him time and again that there was nothing for him to feel insecure about but the seeds had been sown.

For a sports presenter in Pakistan, it is extremely important to cover cricket to further your career. Dr. Sb. knows this and I had requested him repeatedly to fulfill his earlier promise of letting me host cricket shows and matches. In fact, I had once travelled to Islamabad to remind him of the same when he asked me to choose between Kick Off and cricket. When I chose the latter, he backtracked on his offer, stating that he cannot give me cricket since it is the sport that he covers. Again, this conversation took place in front of two other individuals present in his office.

Then PSL happened. Dr. Sb. told me how my friends had ditched me to take up positions with PSL teams and gave me his word that my loyalty to PTV would be repaid by letting me host a couple of international series for whenever he would be out of country. Needless to say, he didn’t live up to his word. It was now clear that Dr. Sb would not let me host cricket matches or programs. At another occasion, he pulled me off air seconds before the airing of a semi-final of a domestic tournament with a text to my producer saying that I was not allowed anywhere near the stadium, despite having given me permission to do the pre and post match interviews.

And then the WT20 came around and he backed out from another commitment made to me to host the first round. His hand was forced only when there was a barrage of negative critique on the host that Dr. Sb. had selected and I was finally given the opportunity to host an international cricket event. Even then, a panelist on the show told me straight away that he had express instructions from Dr. Sb to give me a tough time during the programs.

Kick Off, the only sponsored show on the channel, began to suffer from a lack of a permanent time slot and was taken off air. We lost our sponsor. Dr. Sb. used the opportunity to remove me from the anchor’s spot, even offering the rest of the team to bring in anyone they liked as the host. In fact, there was a day when he sent in two potential hosts from Islamabad to do the show with us for the first recording and replace me for a later recording scheduled for the same day. The producer panicked and felt that they were not ready and I was, once again, asked to host the show. That was also the last episode of Kick Off to go on air.

I owe my latest hiatus from PTV Sports to the belief Dr. Sb. has that I conspire against him (as is evident from his blog). It should also be noted that I am still owed a significant chunk of outstanding dues by PTV Sports, an issue that has been going on since July 2014, and for the recovery of which I shall now make a formal application.

I have never publicly stated anything against Dr. Sb. or PTV and have even tried to talk to him in order to clear any miscommunication that may be for a better working relationship. I haven’t spoken to Dr. Sb. since March 2016 so you can imagine my amazement to see him taking potshots at me during one of his shows or when he mentioned me in the blog. Had Dr. Sb. paid heed to my advice of not replying to every single critique, all of this could have been avoided. As the saying goes, “let sleeping dogs lie”.

Re. PTV Sports does not run on taxpayers’ money

In the end, a note on the status of PTV Sports: While there is not doubt that Dr. Nauman Niaz is a brand in Pakistan, the statement that PTV Sports is not run on taxpayers’ money is a bizarre statement to make by the Director of the channel. While there is no doubt that PTV Sports generates revenue on its own, it is till a part of the PTVC network and falls under the Ministry of Information, Broadcasting and National Heritage and is owned by the state. Hence, the taxpayers own it. Even if you earn money through your channel, you owe a duty to the taxpayers to be responsible with it. In fact, every single second of airtime is paid for or owned by the people of Pakistan. Accountability is not just for the people who run sports in this country but also for those who broadcast it on taxpayers’ dime.