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Supreme Court of Pakistan Orders Better Investigation into Journalist Abductions

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Supreme Court of Pakistan Orders Better Investigation into Journalist Abductions

On May 13, the Supreme Court of Pakistan expressed dissatisfaction with the police investigation into the abduction and harassment cases of three journalists, Matiullah Jan, Asad Toor, and Absar Alam. The court ordered the Islamabad police to appoint “competent officers” to conduct a thorough re-investigation.

A three-judge bench led by Chief Justice Qazi Faez Isa also directed the police to take several specific actions on abduction and harassment of journalists. The court demanded swift action, instructing the police to analyze the abduction footage at the Punjab Forensic Science Agency, release sketches of the suspects, offer a reward for information leading to their capture, and provide a detailed report on the investigation within one month.

The court’s criticism focused on the lack of progress in these cases, particularly in the abduction of Matiullah Jan.  On July 21, 2020, Jan was abducted from the country’s capital, Islamabad, and later released after twelve hours. Chief Justice Isa questioned the police’s inability to identify the culprits despite the availability of video evidence.

During the hearing,CJP Isa criticized Senior Superintendent of Police Masood Ahmed Bangash for claiming there was no CCTV footage of the abductions, despite evidence to the contrary. the top judge challenged the officer’s statements and commitment to the investigation.

The additional attorney general updated the court on the ongoing investigations: the case of Absar Alam is still being explored to determine specific charges. He mentioned that a request to Interpol has been made to arrest suspects in Absar Alam’s case, where 33 suspects have been identified.

Alam, who is the former chairman of the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) and former editor of Daily Nation, Islamabad, was shot in the federal capital on April 20, 2021, as he was taking an evening stroll near his house.

In Asad Toor’s case, authorities have involved spy agencies and circulated sketches of the suspects; however, the National Database Registration Authority (NADRA) has been unable to identify the suspects due to the poor quality of the images.