Asma Shirazi is the host of an authoritative talk show on Pakistan’s Dawn News Television.
Shirazi was Pakistan’s first female war correspondent. Undeterred by threats and personal risk, she has demonstrated courage, professionalism and dedication in the search for the truth in a country where talk shows are as risky as war reporting.
Her show, “FaislaAwamKa,” is widely respected for its independence. Shirazi is considered an inspiration to young female reporters of Pakistan, according to a former colleague.
In 2006, she covered the Lebanon-Israel War from the front for Geo News, a large and independent media group. She narrowly escaped Israeli missile attacks twice and entered evacuation zones to cover the military conflict. Captured by Hezbollah fighters with her team, they were moved during shelling and released after proving their identity.
Banned from the airwaves during General Pervez Musharraf’s 2007 state of emergency along with five male TV anchors, she nonetheless continued her struggle for freedom of information, in spite of bribe offers and death threats. During that period of emergency she was attacked by police officials while doing live coverage.
In 2009, Shirazi was reporting from the Swat valley on the Afghanistan border when Taliban fighters were driven out by the Pakistani military. Her field reports included documentation of terrorist atrocities and interviews with suicide bombers. It was after that coverage that she received death threats from Tahreek e Taliban Pakistan (TTP), the Pakistani Taliban.
War has not been her only focus. She has also covered humanitarian crises, such as the 2005 earthquake in the Northeastern province of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. There she entered a devastated BalaKot city where tens of thousands of people had lost their lives. She spent 12 days reporting from the catastrophic scene, again the only woman reporter in the midst of tragedy.
In her 14 years as an electronic media reporter, she has faced physical dangers, death threats and intimidation tactics, earning the respect of her superiors and colleagues alike, never giving in to pressures, whether they came from authorities or extremists.
Born in Islamabad in 1976, Shirazi has a postgraduate degree in Political Science from Punjab University in Lahore. She started her career from PTV in 2000 and then joined the launch team of GEO News in 2002. She joined ARY News in 2007 and then SAMAA TV in July 2010, all major independent networks operating in Pakistan, before joining Dawn News Television in 2012 as Senior Anchorperson and Analyst.
Asma Shirazi s also the first female Parliamentary Correspondent for electronic media in Pakistan, produced from inside the Parliament building. .Her show on parliamentary affairs, “Parliament Cafeteria,” was widely popular across Pakistan–until it was banned by the Musharraf regime.
Media workers in Pakistan face threats from both the government and extremists. Another leading journalist, Hamid Mir, the host of a political talk show on Geo TV, was shot at while driving to his office in April 2014. In November 2012, a bomb was found under his car, shortly after Mir expressed strong criticism of the Taliban shooting attack on schoolgirl activist Malala Yousafzai.
Pakistan is ranked 158th out of 180 countries in the 2014 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index. With seven journalists murdered in 2013, it is also one of the world’s deadliest countries for media personnel.