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Karachi Press Club: Shock as authorities raid ‘island of freedom’

Through decades of military coups, civil unrest and martial law, the Karachi Press Club has remained off-limits to Pakistan's powerful military and intelligence agencies.

But this island of democratic resistance in a country prone to religious bigotry and militarisation has finally been violated.

Late at night on 8 November, more than a dozen plainclothes men carrying guns forced their way into the club - examining rooms and shooting videos and photos of the premises.

The group, who arrived at the club in half a dozen trucks led by a police van, quickly left when confronted by members. Police later said they were tracking signals from the mobile phone of a wanted man they thought was in the building.

The next day, security agencies arrested a senior journalist at his home on charges of keeping Islamic State group material.

The club responded by saying the arrest was made to justify the raid and defuse protests by journalists, which have been held in all Pakistan's major cities.

But while the mainstream media has largely avoided turning it into a major controversy, the country's reporters and editors remain in shock.

Never in the club's 60-year existence has a security agent been allowed to so much as take a stroll on its premises. It is an inviolable rule of the club.

In December 1958, a small group of pioneering journalists got together to acquire an impressive mansion built by a Parsi family in 1883, and there they set up the country's first press club.

Those pioneers, like most journalists of their time, were political activists linked to the progressive left-wing, and had a strong trade union.