Dawn, a leading newspaper in Pakistan made a glaring error on the front page of its print edition by confusing the banned militant outfit Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) with cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan's popular party Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI).
The newspaper of repute called Taliban chief Hakeemullah Mehsud, who was recently killed in a US drone strike, a “ruthless PTI leader,” instead of a “ruthless TTP leader” in an article titled “Hassan asked to tender apology”.
Snapshots of the front page acronym mix-up were widely shared on Facebook and Twitter with social media users questioning whether the typo was a genuine mistake or a Freudian slip? Yasser Hashmi (@YasserHashmi), an assistant professor at LUMS, a top university in Pakistan, tweeted:
Silly DAWN. TTP = ruthless, PTI = Ruthful
— Yasser Hashmi (@YasserHashmi) November 11, 2013
Broadcast journalist Arshad Sharif (@arsched) grabbed an image of the front page and tweeted:
— Arshad Sharif (@arsched) November 11, 2013
PTI leader Imran Khan is a strong opponent of US drone strikes which has earned him the label Taliban Khan from his critics. Following Hakeemullah's killing, Khan condemned the drone attack saying it sabotaged government-planned peace talks with the TTP.
Dawn promptly issued a correction and apology in an online version of the article, but not before PTI supporters on Pakistan's social media questioned whether there was something sinister behind the typo.
Dawn has corrected online version of lead story but we have officially demanded apology on front page where story printed.C $s behind this!
— Shireen Mazari (@ShireenMazari1) November 11, 2013
Abbas Nasir (@abbasnasir59), a prominent journalist and former editor of Dawn responded:
Dawn's error is grave. I am sure the Editor and the team regret it. But it is over the top for PTI Info Secy to blame this on $. Disgusting.
— Abbas Nasir (@abbasnasir59) November 11, 2013
PTI's social media wing head and Global Voices author Awab Alvi (@DrAwab) asked for a public apology by Dawn:
#PTI must take STRONG OBJECTION for DAWN blooper where Hakimullah is named as a PTI leader – SAD, they think this is a JOKE > PUBLIC APOLOGY
— Awab Alvi (@DrAwab) November 11, 2013
Its a sad observation that the level of Journalism in Pakistan has deteriorated that FRONT page DAWN carries their baseless propaganda
— Awab Alvi (@DrAwab) November 11, 2013
Adil Ansari(@AnsariAdil), PTI's Twitter head added:
Strongly condemn the sort of publication blunder Dawn committed today. Extremely irresponsible & from no side is this called media ethics.
— Adil Ansari (@AnsariAdil) November 11, 2013
PTI is popular with young urban Pakistanis and the party has created a strong and loyal following on social media. Pakistani Twitter users critical of Imran Khan and his party often accuse PTI supporters of relentlessly trolling them. Omar Quraishi (@omar_quraishi), opinion editor of the Express Tribune said:
Now staff at Dawn will also know what it feels to be at the receiving end of PTI's troll army
— omar r quraishi (@omar_quraishi) November 11, 2013
Some leading journalists empathized with the staff at Dawn for the error that was later mentioned at the National Assembly by PTI's leader Imran Khan.
@QuatrinaHosain Happens all the time. I still recall a headline in The Nation [English daily] which said “Benazir demands pubic inquiry”. It's all fine guys
— Aamer Ahmed Khan (@Aak0) November 11, 2013
Imran Khan just complained about Dawn calling TTP chief a PTI leader on their front page… that subeditor is SO screwed…
— Jahanzaib Haque (@jhaque_) November 11, 2013
His colleague, Gibran Pashiman (@gibranp), a 2013 Reuters fellow adds:
Empathise with Dawn's newsroom. Such things happen in a newsroom's heated environment. We've all done it at some point. A shit feeling
— Gibran Peshimam (@gibranp) November 11, 2013
I really, really hope nobody gets pulled up or reprimanded for this most ingenious typo of all time. Absolutely brilliant!
— Abid Hussain (@abidhussayn) November 11, 2013
Some political activists on Twitter enjoyed the error like Assad Zulfiqar (@pseudorebel) of Pakistan Peoples Party, who complimented the article's author:
Syed Irfan Raza, you legend!
— Assad Zulfiqar Khan (@pseudorebel) November 11, 2013
Adnan Rasool (@adnanrasool), a political science student based in Atlanta, USA tweeted:
Dear @dawn_com … I humbly request you to give the person who did the “typo” on today's front page.. a very hefty bonus for this month
— Adnan Rasool (@adnanrasool) November 11, 2013
The PPP chairperson Bilawal Bhutto Zardari (@BBhuttoZardari), who has been very active on Twitter with witty comments, since his party joined opposition ranks after May's election, sent a tweet to one of Dawn's editors:
U work @ dawn.Dawn called HM a PTI leader.Best morning ever btw thanks 4 tht.Don't think u should correct tweets today though @ZarrarKhuhro
— BilawalBhuttoZardari (@BBhuttoZardari) November 11, 2013
The Dawn article with the Taliban-sized typo was about the head of Pakistan's leading Islamist party Jamat-e-Islami Munawar Hassan asserting on a popular TV news channel that deceased Taliban chief Hakimullah should be considered a shaheed or Islamic “martyr,” with a secure place in heaven, for dying at the hands of America.
Since Pakistani soldiers, thousands of whom have died at the hands of the Taliban, are considered shaheed, Hassan's comment caught the ire of many including the country's most powerful institution, the army. The article contained an official comment from the Pakistan army asking the Islamist party leader for an unconditional apology to the country and the families of martyred servicemen who've been fighting the Taliban and Al-Qaeda network since 2004.
The Islamist party, which has traditionally been a strong ally of the Pakistan army, has distanced itself from Hassan's statement saying their chief was airing his personal opinion on live TV.
UPDATE: Dawn published a front-page apology and correction for the “inadvertent mistake” in its November 12, 2013 print edition.