The blame for the over fifty year long, chronological abuse of the press in Pakistan can be quite properly laid at the autocratic attitude commonly found in Pakistani leadership – be it civilian, military or bureaucratic.
However, one cannot completely absolve the press itself for its historical subservience to Islamabad. The blame for this lies squarely on the press owners - such as Mehmood Haroon, Khalil-ur-Rahman, Majid Nizami et al - for placing self-interest and financial profit before the principle of press freedom. All of these gentlemen have had ingratiatingly close connections with various despotic governments over the years. For instance Dawn's Mehmood Haroon happily served as Interior Minister and Governor of Sindh under the military dictator Zia, Nawa-i-Waqt's Majid Nizami was exceedingly close with the Sharif family (while it was trampling on the press and arresting the likes of Najam Sethi) and Jang's Khalil-ur-Rahman remained thick with many a dictator.
Coming back to Dawn, a senior member of its editorial staff (M Ziauddin) took his own newspaper to task not so long ago by saying:
The Dawn survived decades of military dictatorships basically because it shamelessly toed the government line. Ziauddin recalls printing verbatim government press releases and letting the censor board remove entire pages.
So it comes as a pleasant surprise that Dawn has finally come out of its dusty closet and decided to take on a military dictatorship.
I wonder how much of this is due to the efforts of Zafar Abbas, the ex-BBC Urdu correspondent and recently appointed Islamabad editor for the paper?