Wed, Jun 21, 2017 - Page 6 News List

Pakistani journalists under fire from all sides

AP, HARIPUR, Pakistan

Last month, Pasiktani Minister of the Interior Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan ordered a crackdown on “those ridiculing the Pakistan Army on social media [to protect] the prestige, reputation and goodwill” of the armed forces.

On May 18, Taha Siddiqui, Pakistan’s correspondent for France 24 TV, received a threatening call from someone claiming to represent the counterterrorism wing of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), ordering him to come in for questioning.

Siddiqui, who is also bureau chief of the World Is One News Web site, is an outspoken critic of Pakistan’s military and intelligence agencies.

“My work is in the public domain,” Siddiqui said. “What does counterterrorism have to do with journalism, with free speech?”

Siddiqui telephoned colleagues for advice and stopped answering his door.

He eventually spoke to Jehangir who advised him to file a petition demanding to know why he was being investigated.

Siddiqui, who did not go in for questioning, has already made at least one court appearance and was told by the FIA that he was being investigated because of his critical stories about the military.

On May 30, Rana Tanveer, a correspondent for the English-language daily newspaper, the Express Tribune, found death threats spray painted on his home in eastern Lahore saying he would die for writing stories about the plight of minorities in Pakistan — particularly Ahmedis, reviled by mainstream Muslims who label them as heretics because they believe in a messiah who arrived after the Prophet Muhammad.

Pakistan has officially declared them non-Muslims, making it a crime for Ahmedis to identify themselves as Muslims.

Dozens are facing charges.

“That was shocking for me,” said Tanveer, who went to the police, which did not register a case, but instead advised him against filing a formal complaint, saying it would enrage the radicals who had threatened him.

Tanveer has received several such threats over the years; even his landlord had been warned against renting to him because of his coverage of religious minorities

On June 9, Tanveer was riding his motorcycle after meeting a colleague from the Pakistan Union of Journalists to decide how to deal with the threats when a speeding car slammed into him and sent him crashing to the pavement.

He suffered a fractured leg and believes it was no accident.

Today, he is in hiding with his family, unprotected by police and unsure when he can return to his job.

Jehangir said she believes the government crackdown is being done at least partially at the behest of Pakistan’s military.

“They think that the image of Pakistan is being destroyed by the word getting out of here,” she said.

“Now, if you stop picking up people, stop torturing people, the image will improve, but don’t shoot the messenger,” she added.

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