Recently, General Ghafoor fielded questions from journalists, where one asked him why Imran Khan should be spared if Sharif and Zardari were under fire. The question may be wrong, but we cannot discourage the culture of asking for answers from people in power. The one time that I felt this was most important was during the time that Kulbhushan Jadhav’s issue was the talk of the town. From the very start, when General Asim Bajwa, along with former information minister Pervez Rashid, introduced the Indian agent, there were many questions that should have been asked. The same reporter was present during this event as well, but he remained silent along with the many other journalists who chose to censor themselves. However, during this time another journalist raised another question — unrelated to Jadhav — but was asked to leave the room. This goes to show our sorry state of affairs, where people in power don’t even allow questions. There are one or two major pressure groups that play a role in ensuring that the questioning culture stops in the country. The majority group comes from a military background, which does not allow the common person to ask questions. However, civilian higher-ups are no better as they don’t like giving answers either. Another pressure group is the religious-inspired lot. They don’t allow freethinking and free questioning to grow. With these realities, how can one ask journalists to do their jobs professionally? Should we go about the technique used by the first journalist I mentioned in this article? Or should we rather focus on asking the wrong question at the wrong time? Relevant questioning is a technique or an art, putting aside this debate, this could’ve given at least a little space to promote the freedom and responsible speech. Helen Thomas, a noted American journalist, is famous for her critical questioning. Sitting in front of George W. Bush, she asked the president what the point of the Iraq war was. However, as a journalist, she did not act as though she was doing something uneven. She put the relevant questions forth at the right time. Faiz used to questioned general Ayub and his administration and he was the voice of the common people. The Rawalpindi Conspiracy Case was a consequence that he had to face, when he was sent to jail and later exiled Thomas did not enjoy good relations with the White House because of her critical questioning. However, she got to ask her questions because she was a journalist. Of course, she was given a free environment to do so — but Thomas is no longer in the good books of many people. For debate to grow locally we must first open up our culture to questions. Likewise, in Pakistan, Faiz used to questioned general Ayub and his administration on security and administrative issues. He was the voice of the common people, where he did not know what could happen as a result of him asking his questions. The Rawalpindi Conspiracy Case was a consequence that he had to face, when he was sent to jail and later exiled. And today, we can see that the Pakistan Times editor has been written out of our history. In present times, things are much worse. We cannot talk or think about Saleem Shahzad’s murder when it comes to journalism courses. Ask the youth who have enrolled in such courses and you will see that even discussions about the topic are off the table. This is the reason I quit Urdu journalism. One cannot claim that English media outlets are any freer. However, this side of the media highlights relevant stories seriously, as compared to propagandists that plague the Urdu side. True journalism is in trouble in nations like Pakistan. The future is bleak, but the future asks for even more questions than before. The writer is a journalist based in Islamabad. He tweets @Surkhsalaam Published in Daily Times, July 15th 2018.