Who Is Behind The Abduction And Torture Of Pakistani Journalist?

Discussion in 'Pakistan' started by ejazr, Sep 11, 2010.

  1. ejazr

    ejazr Stars and Ambassadors Stars and Ambassadors

    Oct 8, 2009
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    Hyderabad and Sydney
    Who Is Behind The Abduction And Torture Of Pakistani Journalist? By Abdus Sattar Ghazali

    Pakistan, where disappearance and torture of people is not uncommon, a prominent journalist was tortured and humiliated after abduction by unidentified men from the capital, Islamabad, on Saturday, September 4. Umar Cheema, a reporter with The News International in Islamabad and the 2008 Daniel Pearl Fellow at The New York Times, was picked up by some unknown men in police uniforms.

    “I was held in illegal captivity for 6 hours during which I was continuously tortured and humiliated in nude. They stripped me out of my clothes, hanged me upside down and shaved off my head and moustaches,” the senior reporter of the country’s leading English daily recounted. “You are filing anti-government stories. What is your agenda? You are working for a lobby which favored martial law,” Cheema quoted the abductors as saying.

    There are many speculations about Umar Cheema’s abductors. Was it the unpopular government of President Asif Ali Zardari which is unable to help millions of people uprooted by the floods or any one of the several intelligence agencies such as Inter-Services Intelligence – the most powerful spy agency controlled by the Army - or the Directorate of Intelligence Bureau (IB) – a civilian spy agency?

    A review of Cheema’s recently published stories may provide some insight.

    Umar Cheema’s last piece, on August 20, was about how some big businessmen would not be attending a meeting called by President Zardari to raise funds for flood relief. On July 8, he reported on the opposition parties' resolve to back the judiciary in any stand-off with the government. On July 2, he reported that some Turkish guides hired for Zardari's visit to Turkey had not been paid and had gone to court against the Pakistan embassy. On June 19, he reported about Law Minister Babar Awan chartering a Pakistan Air Force plane to bribe bar associations in southern Punjab. On May 16, he wrote a story claiming that General Musharraf's right-hand man Tariq Aziz had become Zardari's close adviser. And on May 12, he reported about how Interior Minister Rehman Malik's past was being whitewashed and the record of cases against him was disappearing.

    On the other hand, the army may not be happy with many of Cheema's stories. On August 5, a sensitive story about how the army is using up to 400 personnel of the Rawalpindi police to guard the army chief's house and the routes to it. On July 8, a story about the mishandling by intelligence agencies of high profile terror attacks such as that on Lt Gen Mushtaq Baig and ISI buses, which led to the acquittal of the accused. On July 7, a story detailing the Punjab government's condemnation of the army and its intelligence agencies for not cooperating in terror attacks investigations. On June 9, a story about how one of the commandos court-martialed for disobedience during the Lal Masjid operation was seeking Nawaz Sharif's help. On June 8, a story about how the two court-martialed commandos had not been provided the court-martial proceedings and had approached the Supreme Court for justice. On May 26, a report about the quiet arrests of an army major and his brother after the Faisal Shehzad incident in New York.

    From these stories it looks that neither the corrupt US-installed government of President Zardari nor the powerful Army, which controls the strings of the government behind the scene, was happy with what Umar Cheema was writing. Hence it is difficult to pin point the blame on any one of the two parties. However, Cheema was fortunate that he was released after six hours of torture and not disappeared like thousands of innocent people of Pakistan. He was fortunate that he was not killed like the kidnapped Baluchi lawyer Zaman Marri, whose bullet-riddled body was found on Monday (September 6). Zaman Marri was kidnapped on July 19 by a group of armed men from the Baluchistan capital, Quetta, when he was returning home from his office.

    The exact number of missing persons and victims of forced disappearance are difficult to independently verify, notably due to difficulties in access and security considerations in many parts of the country. However, different estimates by nationalist groups, religious organizations and different human rights organizations, claim that as many as 8,000 cases of missing persons have been reported since the start of the “war on terror” from different parts of the country. In Balochistan province alone, over 4,000 persons are reportedly missing and disappearances continue to be perpetrated, notably by paramilitary forces.

    According to the Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC) since the outset of the military operation against militants, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, formally known as North West Frontier Province (NWFP), has been the scene of heightened disappearances, including those conducted in connivance with foreign forces. Around 1000 persons belonging to religious groups are missing or dead. In Sindh province, over 100 Sindhi nationalists are thought to have been arrested, and remain disappeared but are believed to be being held in military torture cells. In Punjab, most disappeared persons reportedly belong to religious militant groups.

    The phenomenon of disappearances and missing persons is multi-faceted, but is accompanied by a lack of effective, credible actions by the authorities and impunity across the board. “The country is beset by grave and widespread human rights violations by various State-agencies and institutions, notably by the notorious Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) and the military. Thousands of persons are missing as a result of forced disappearances committed all across the country, in particular in conflict-affected areas, such as Balochistan province,” the ALRC said in a press release on August 27.

    Going back to the abduction and torture of Umar Cheema. This is an assault on the freedom of expression and freedom of speech. This is an attempt to silence the few courageous voices in the print and electronic media of Pakistan which remains fettered on the vital national issues such as the endemic role of army in the government and the killing of innocent civilians in the name of the “war on terror” by the army and the US drone attacks.

    Abdus Sattar Ghazali is the Executive Editor of the online magazine American Muslim Perspective: American Muslim Perspective email: [email protected]
  3. ajtr

    ajtr Veteran Member Veteran Member

    Oct 2, 2009
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    Its total military raj in Pakistan.Aductions of intelligentsia,journalists,political leaders has been going on for decades.Baloch are the worst sufferers of aductions by intelligence agencies.
  4. ajtr

    ajtr Veteran Member Veteran Member

    Oct 2, 2009
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    The perils of reporting in Pakistan

    BY HUMA IMTIAZ, SEPTEMBER 24, 2010 Friday, September 24, 2010 - 10:31 AM Share

    It has been a terrible year for Pakistan, and 2010 has not spared journalists working in the country either. In September so far, three journalists have been killed, one has been beaten up and another tortured so severely that chills went up even the bravest journalist's spine. Six journalists have been killed in Pakistan this year alone, with the last casualty reportedly at the hands of the Taliban. Three Afghan journalists were recently arrested recently by Afghan or international forces on the other side of the border, as well. And the year isn't over yet.

    In the first week of September, Pakistani journalist Umar Cheema was abducted and tortured in Islamabad, at the hands of unnamed criminals. After his release, he said his captors had warned him to "Stop writing against the government, if you cannot bear this torture." It is widely believed that his kidnapping and torture were at the hands of Pakistan's spy agencies, which have had a long and bloody history of quelling dissent. One only has to look at a list of what Cheema had been reporting on to connect the dots.

    Writing in Dawn, columnist Kamran Shafi hits the nail squarely on its head.

    We will never find out what happened to poor Umar Cheema because the Deep State does not want us to find out. It is a law, a country, a nation, and a state unto itself all rolled up in one, independently sprung as it is due to the billions of rupees it forcibly purloins from the hapless government of Pakistan on pain of imminent death and worse.

    In a telephone interview, Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Qamar Zaman Kaira said that a joint investigation team (JIT) and a judicial commission have been set up to investigate Umar Cheema's case, where the team also includes, for the first time a private individual -- a representative from the Jang Group so that they can ensure transparency. The JIT also includes people from the Intelligence Bureau, Military Intelligence, and the ISI. "The Government is serious about investigating this case. It is a democratic government and this cannot happen. We want to investigate the facts and catch the culprits."

    Browsing through the Committee to Protect Journalists' Pakistan page is a depressing experience. Scores of names, some killed at the hands of gunmen, others in suicide bombings. While many would say that journalists too are part of the population that cannot remain untouched from the violence that has devastated Pakistan, in many cases these deaths could have been avoided, and in some cases, media organizations must share the blame.

    While no journalist, myself included, would want to walk around with a security guard on the job, media organizations must ensure that reporters, especially those covering sensitive occasions such as religious processions or military operations, are given adequate protection. Even at the largest privately run media organizations, reporters are unaware of basic first aid training. This must be made compulsory by the organizations, as must be the standard gear -- bulletproof jackets and helmets. The cost of buying the equipment is surely not dearer than the cost of a human life.

    Qamar Zaman Kaira agrees that journalists cannot walk around with guards and that the security situation in the country is not unknown to anyone, but says they have asked the journalism community to tell them what security measures can be provided from the government. "The Interior Ministry is clearing the release of bulletproof jackets that have been imported and were at the airport, and we're also providing 100 more jackets. Additionally, the Ministry is providing safety training as well to journalists."

    Fahad Desmukh, a freelance journalist, says, "Something needs to be done to deal with the cutthroat competition that forces journalists, cameramen and even the drivers to take needless risks. Journalists should not be penalized for walking away from a dangerous assignment. Right now, the owners care more about protecting their cameras, vehicles and equipment rather than the lives of their employees."

    Secondly, while the government can only do so much to improve the security situation (and their efforts in this regard are an entirely different post altogether), we must remember that there is, at least on the surface, a civilian, democratic government in place. While the influence and the power of the shadowy intelligence agencies is not hidden from anyone, and it is clear that they often act without any directions from the government, it would send a reassuring message to journalists reporting in Pakistan if the Pakistani government carried out a fair and thorough investigation into Umar Cheema's abduction. It is also high time that the government ensures that media organizations implement necessary safety measures, so that every time we go out in the field, we are not wracked with fear that we're risking life and limb for a story without an iota of preparation.

    Huma Imtiaz works as a journalist in Pakistan and can be reached at [email protected].

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