ISLAMABAD: With Karachi often described as a mafia city, it is increasingly becoming hostile towards journalists who are being forced into silence and compelled to flee the city. Infact, two journalists have had to leave their hometown within the last month.
Although writing a report about parties harbouring militant wings is not possible for a journalist without risking his or her personal safety, the attacks on journalists have increased with the passage of time as the federal and provincial governments watch as silent spectators.
While a woman host of a talk-show fled the city in early August following a call intercepted by the intelligence agencies revealing a murder plot to be carried out by four target killers, a male journalist has recently been brutalised and told to leave the city. Both incidents happened in August and were publicized although it is hard to ascertain how many journalists have quietly left the city under threat.
In the first case, the police had informed the woman journalist about the life-threats after she did programmes on the mass-scale rigging in Karachi on election day. In the other case, a journalist was kidnapped by policemen on August 30 who later handed him over to another group who roughed him up.
The involvement of the police in such activities coincides with an admission by the IG Sindh before Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif during a recent briefing that around 6,000 criminals were which needed to teach him a lesson. He was released after 10-hour captivity and his driver is still missing.
“They accused me of betraying the ethnic community I belong to,” he told The News in Islamabad, his latest destination, adding they criticized him for creating misunderstandings between a political party and a state institution.
“They warned me against writing anything about domestic politics and advised me to write only about international issues,” he explained. He was also accused of feeding information to Chirya, a reference to Geo TV’s talk show host, Najam Sethi.
As they asked him to quit Karachi, he told them that he would follow their order. Asked where he would go, he said he planned to settle in London, a reply that provoked them into his further beating and was asked to move to a city within Pakistan.
He was later dumped on roadside and the passersby informed the police which, instead of helping him, demanded Rs 50,000, and said failing to do so would land him in jail as a terrorist. They gave up the extortion demand only after he told them about his relation with an SHO of the area, nevertheless, the police forced him pay them Rs2,000 as petrol expenses.
In the lady host’s case, fingers were also pointed towards the political party which categorically rejected any role. She also moved to Islamabad and wrote a blog explaining the reasons behind her decision to quit Karachi.
After eye-witnessing massive rigging at the polling stations where she went to cast her vote but could not, she said she did a number of talk shows highlighting this issue. Later she went to Saudi Arabia for Umra and found her house surrounded by police upon return to Karachi.
As soon as I opened my cell phone after returning to my home, she wrote, the first call I received was by SP of her area. He said only one sentence “Madam where were you? Please don’t leave your house. I am on my way.” The Police and intelligence agencies men came to my house shortly, she explained.
“I was told by them that they had intercepted telephone calls detailing that four target killers had been assigned to target me or my family and the attack would be made to look like a robbery at gun point.”
According to all intelligence reports, all the terrorists belonged to the largest ethnic political party of Karachi, her blog reads. A delegation of the political party visited her residence after she contacted it about the calls intercepted by the intelligence agencies. The party delegates refuted the report.
She then asked herself: “I was unsure who to believe? My saviours had become my enemies? Were the agencies pitting me against a political party to play their proxy wars? Or was this whole thing the truth?”
Soon after this shocking news, she sent her brother back to Canada and moved her ailing mother to an undisclosed city before flying to Islamabad where she brought the issue to the notice of Prime Minister during his meeting with TV anchors.Besides meeting the PM, she wrote: “I met Interior Minister and DG ISI but my all efforts went into vain.”