A prominent Pakistani journalist known for being critical of Pakistan's powerful military today said he was beaten and threatened with death by nearly a dozen unidentified armed men who tried to abduct him.
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|Taha Siddiqui || |
Taha Siddiqui, the Pakistani bureau chief of Indian television channel World Is One News (WION), was attacked as he was on his way to the Islamabad airport to board a flight for London. He received minor injuries as he resisted, and his phone was snatched away.
Siddiqui said he was attacked by 10-12 men but managed to escape kidnapping. In a series of tweets, he said, "I was on my way to [the] airport today at 8:20 am when 10-12 armed men stopped my cab [and] forcibly tried to abduct me.
"Saale ko goli maaro (shoot him)," the men, who Taha said were armed with Kalashnikov atomatic rifles and pistols, shouted.
The assailants were accompanied by a Toyota Vigo without a number plate. They grabbed him and tried to take him away, but he resisted and ran away during the scuffle and sought help.
In a further post, Siddiqui said that he had managed to escape the ''kidnapping attempt'' and that he was "safe and with the police now".
"Looking for support in any way possible," Siddiqui added, ending his tweet with the hashtag #StopEnforcedDisappearances.
Siddiqui is a winner of France's highest journalism award, The Albert Londres Prize.
Superintendent of Police Mustafa Tanveer confirmed that Siddiqui approached police soon after the incident. Tanveer said that Siddiqui was in a Uber taxi when he was stopped by armed men.
Hamid Mir, who was attacked in Karachi in 2014, tweeted in support of Taha, ''They tried their best to kill me followed me many kilometers I received last bullet close to hospital but they were not powerful than Allah.''
Taha's friends and colleagues tweeted his pictures of torn shirt with blood stains.
Taha later came to the National Press Club in Islamabad where journalists took out a protest to condemn the kidnap bid.
In May last year, the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) had issued a notice to Siddiqui, known for posting comments on social media against the military, and asked him to appear before its counterterrorism wing.
Siddiqui had filed a petition in the Islamabad High Court alleging that the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) had harassed him over the phone.
In his petition, Siddiqui had alleged that a man named Noman Bodla, who identified himself as a member of the Counter Terrorism Department of the FIA, had called him and attempted to pressure him into appearing for an interrogation at the FIA headquarters.
He added in his petition that he "was reluctant to go to the FIA Headquarters on the basis that there have been several reports in the press where such phone calls are made and once the person who is to be interrogated sets out to the FIA Headquarters, he is either picked up and disappeared or detained illegally."
The Pakistani military has denied any role in any enforced disappearances, as has the civilian government. Militants have also targeted journalists in the past.
On 24 May, the Indian High Commission had asked the FIA to stop harassing the journalist.
While Pakistan is known to have a surprisingly free press for a country that has been a dictatorship for most of its existence, freedom definitely does not spell safety. In November, the 2017 World Press Freedom Index placed Pakistan among the most dangerous countries for journalists – it was ranked 139th out of 180 countries.