Well-known Pakistani broadcast journalist and current affairs talk show host Dr. Shahid Masood has returned to the Dubai-based ARY Television channel to again host his once-popular "Views on News" program.
His success as a fearless and honest commentator in the post-9/11 Urdu-speaking world spawned a new generation of broadcast journalists. His documentary "Hidden Truth" was the most talked about program when it was first aired on ARY. He became an instant hit — so much so that the pirated versions of the documentary sold like hot cakes on the streets of Jeddah, Dubai, Doha and Dammam. Urdu-loving expatriates from Pakistan and India became his diehard fans.
Masood, who spent his early childhood in Taif and Riyadh, then left ARY at the peak of his popularity and joined Pakistan's premier 24-hour new channel Geo TV in January 2007. Through his "Mere Mutabiq" program, he did trendsetting interviews with Pakistani politicians, opposition leaders, generals, bureaucrats, lawyers, litterateurs and judges and rode the crest of a new popularity wave.
His popularity and cutting remarks against military dictator Pervez Musharraf on his programs during the pro-democracy movement led by Nawaz Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League (N) and Benazir Bhutto's Pakistan Peoples Party did not go down well with the establishment, and he became a target of frequent attacks by government ministers. He did top-notch reporting during the siege of Lal Masjid in Islamabad and had access to the two Ghazi brothers in those crucial moments in July 2007. "Mere Mutabiq" was taken off the air, and he faced immense difficulties producing his show in Dubai, which has always been his base. Musharraf's anger at Masood's interview with Lt. Gen. Jamshed Gulzar Kiani only added to the popularity of Masood.
However, Masood's popularity took a nosedive in May 2008 when he accepted Asif Ali Zardari's offer of becoming the chairman and managing director of the government-run Pakistan Television Corp. (PTV). Many saw his move as opportunistic and castigated him for not living up to the high standards of journalism and compromising his status by joining the government of the unpopular Zardari. Masood defended himself saying his aim was to infuse a degree of professionalism in the state-run media arm. In fact, he did try to clean the Augean stables at PTV, but in the process he ruffled the feathers of many powerful ministers and close aides of Zardari, forcing his resignation.
Masood discussed his ride to stardom and the rough patches in his career on the program's first show Monday night. His guests on the talk show, including Hamid Gul, Mujeeb ur Rahman Shami, Mushahid Hussain Syed and Javed Chaudhry advised him to steer clear of political posts and to concentrate on what he does best — broadcast journalism. "Shahid Masood has ruled the hearts of the people with his analysis and we wish him all the best once again," said Shami. "He gave a voice to the Ummah in the most difficult of times during the wars in Iraq, Lebanon and Afghanistan."
On Tuesday, Masood was back as an ace commentator discussing the role of foreign slush money in subverting the various arms of the state, including the media. The captivating 45-minute discussion had former Pakistani bureaucrat Roedad Khan, former minister Sheikh Rasheed and prominent journalists Mazhar Abbas and Saleem Bokhari.
Despite a plethora of new channels — such as Aaj TV, Waqt TV, Dunya TV, Express News, Dawn TV, Samaa TV — ARY and Geo TV still remain the two most popular news channels reporting on Pakistani political and social scene.
Geo TV is owned by the Jang Group, the largest Urdu media house in Pakistan, while ARY is owned by Dubai-based successful Pakistani businessman Abdul Razzak Yaqoob (ARY). Both the channels have a huge following among the Pakistani diaspora in the Middle East, Europe and the United States. Indian expatriates in the Gulf too are avid watchers of the Pakistani channels.