Islamabad: Sher Ali Khalti, staff reporter of an English daily in Pakistan, is grateful to God for his good fortune.
In 2014 he was recruited as an office boy in The News, Lahore, and his job was mainly to serve tea to the staff or get printouts of their articles.
Today, he is working in the same organization as investigative reporter and his articles on militant outfit Jamat-ul-Dawa (JuD) and its Shariah courts, honour killings, Chotu gang (a notorious gang of kidnappers in Southern Punjab) and missing people have been highlighted in the paper.
To him, it is like a dream come true.
Hailing from Rojhan, a remote and underdeveloped town in Rajanpur district of Southern Punjab, Sher Ali Khalti lost his father during the 2005 floods in the Indus.
All their belongings and cotton crops were destroyed. “I was doing my graduation at that time. My father breathed his last in front of me. I can still remember I carried him on my shoulders and waded all the way through the water,” recalled Khalti.
Because of his father’s death, he could not complete his graduation and the family was employed by a local landlord. Besides working on the land, he started giving tuitions.
Then like most of the educated Southern Punjab youth, he went to Lahore in 2010 in search of a job and to complete his studies.
While living in Lahore, he completed his graduation. It took him six years to complete what should have taken only two, but he didn’t lose heart. He then completed his Masters in English from Punjab University, Lahore, and later, Masters in Mass Communication from National University of Modern Languages (NUML).
Fortune smiled on him in 2014 when he visited the newspaper office for a job. Khalti says he was so desperate that he was mentally prepared for the job of a security guard. But as luck would have it, the office manager told him there was a vacancy for an office boy/assistant. He took it up.
But how he switched over to reporting from an office boy again has a fairytale like element.
Those were the days when kidnappers of the Chotu Gang were striking parts of Punjab, Sindh and Balochistan. They kidnapped the rich and kept them in Rajanpur area.
One day, while serving tea, Khalti heard the editor talking over phone to his reporter asking desperately for some exclusive piece on Chotu gang.
Being a native of the area and with some links there, Khalti offered that he could interview the gang leader Chotu and did it. It was an exclusive story and later, law-enforcement agencies and security forces contacted Khalti for the role of an intermediary.
In 2016, he formally joined the paper as reporter. Today, Khalti is living a happy life with his family - two children and wife - in Lahore. Though not very well-paid, he is enjoying the repute of a good investigative reporter. He has conducted training workshop on Counter Violence Extremism (CVE) and Counter Terrorism(CT) and has been a member of the Fact Finding Mission on Kartarpur Corridor constituted by Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP).