English News

  • youtube
  • facebook
  • twitter

Pakistani state, deep state, target scribes even in Europe


Pakistan is considered to be one of the most dangerous places for journalists. This year journalists discovered that, if they get too troublesome for those who matter, they are not safe even in Europe. Pakistani journalist Sajid Hussain, who escaped from Pakistan in 2012 after continuous death threats for writing on human rights violations and forced disappearances by the Pakistani Army, disappeared from Sweden.

Hussain disappeared on March 2 from Uppsala in Sweden—a country which ranks high as one of the safest places on earth. Swedish investigating agencies have no clue about what happened to Hussain. Hussain had fled for his life after police raided his home in Balochistan and questioned family members. He used to write on abuses by the Pakistani Army, which included reporting on extrajudicial political killings, arbitrary arrests and torture.

He was the editor-in-chief of the Pakistani news website Baluchistan Times, which often offended Pakistan's powerful intelligence agency ISI for its writing on army’s repression in the region. Just before Hussain's disappearance, Pakistani blogger Ahmad Waqass Goraya was assaulted by two men outside his residence in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. He had fled Pakistan about a decade back after he had been kidnapped and tortured, along with four other social media activists and bloggers. Goraya says that he was kidnapped by authorities, unhappy over his journalism.More than ten years later, even in the Netherlands he receives online death threats. Goraya claims he knows Pakistani journalists who have been attacked in France and Germany as well.

Talking about this trend of the Pakistani deep state assaulting journalists in Europe, Radio Free Europe, which promotes free flow of information in eastern Europe and the Arab world, says, "The military, intelligence community, and military-affiliated political groups have been suspected in the killings of 22 reporters in the past decade." The France-based Reporters Without Borders, whose mandate includes promoting free, independent and pluralistic journalism and to defend media persons, believes that Pakistan's notorious intelligence agency, ISI, keeps a list of exiled reporters. No wonder Gul Bukhari, another Pakistani journalist now in London, is careful not to leak her location to the public.

She says that the Pakistani High Commission in London has been trying to locate her address. Bukhari fears she will be harmed if the Pakistan government gets to know her whereabouts in the UK. While in Pakistan, Bukhari had been kidnapped in May 2018 in Lahore on her way to a television studio. Because of her critical views about the Pakistani Army, the suspicion immediately fell on the Army, which promptly denied any hand in her kidnapping.

As a journalist for the newspaper, The Nation, she had been writing about the military's meddling in politics and its role in forced disappearances. However, Pakistan is in no mood to let go of Bukhari. Around the same time that Goraya was assaulted in front of his home in the Netherlands, the counter terrorism branch of the Federal Investigation Agency of Pakistan asked Bukhari to appear in court over charges related to propaganda against the government, security organizations, and its judiciary.

Alternatively, the government is threatening to lodge terrorism charges against her. Knowing what fate awaits her if she returns to Pakistan, she has decided to not go back to her homeland. Even as Pakistani journalists face intimidation in European countries, the Imran Khan government has increased the pressure on local journalists also. Just look at some of these examples. In a surprise move, Pakistan recently ordered the release of Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, who had masterminded the killing of American journalist Daniel Pearl. Pearl was the South Asia Bureau Chief of The Wall Street Journal when he was kidnapped and murdered in 2002.

A graphic video of his decapitation was delivered to the US consulate a month later. Pakistan is also under pressure to release Mir Shakil-ur-Rehman, the editor-in-chief of Jang Media Group, who was arrested in March over purchase of property nearly 34 years back. Eminent scholars, journalists and personalities, apart from international organizations, have written to the Pakistan government to release the Jang editor, who has been languishing in jail since March 12.

Pakistan has been using anti-terror laws against journalists to intimidate them and even detain them without the approval of the courts. The worrisome trend, however, is that the threats, assaults, detentions, murders and disappearances of media persons which were confined to Pakistan have now arrived in Europe.