Islamabad: A prominent Pakistani journalist and a vocal critic of Pakistan’s powerful military, today said he was assaulted and threatened with death by nearly a dozen unidentified armed men who tried to abduct him.
Taha Siddiqui, the Pakistani bureau chief of Indian television channel WION, said he was attacked by 10-12 men while he was going to the airport in Rawalpindi but managed to escape before being kidnapped, suffering minor injuries during the struggle, Dawn News reported.
Siddiqui recounted the details of the kidnapping attempt in a series of tweets.
“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,” Siddiqui, the winner of France’s highest journalism award – The Albert Londres Prize, said in a tweet.
“Saale ko goli maaro (shoot him),” the men, who Taha said were armed with Kalashnikovs and pistols, shouted.
In his post, Siddiqui further 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.
Superintendent of Police Mustafa Tanveer confirmed that Siddiqui, who is the Pakistan bureau chief at World Is One News, approached police soon after the incident.
Tanveer said that Siddiqui was in a private taxi when he was stopped by armed men. Islamabad Police has began investigating the case. Siddiqui was “beaten [and] threatened with death”, said journalist Asad Hashim in a tweet.
Recently, Siddiqui came out with a criticism of how the Pakistani press treated Indian national on death-row Kulbhushan Jadhav’s mother and wife.
“Somedays we do a story that disgusts us. Today was one such day. But it was not because of what I covered. Rather it was because of how my fellow journalists behaved with the mother and wife of #KulbushanJadhav when they left FO (Foreign Office) building. They shouted taunts. It was very shameful,” Siddiqui tweeted on December 25 after Jadhav met his family in Islamabad.
“Many of these journalists are familiar faces at Foreign Office briefings and have a number of years of experience before being allotted such an important news beat to cover. And yet on Monday, when they were covering the meet-up, they seemed to have lost all sense of ethics when it comes to reporting,” Taha had written in an article in ‘World Is One News’.
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.
The Pakistani military has so far denied playing a role in any enforced disappearances, as has the civilian government. Militants have also targeted journalists in the past.
Siddiqui had previously filed a petition in the Islamabad High Court alleging that the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) had harassed him over the phone.
On May 24, the court had asked the FIA to stop harassing the journalist. Incidents of enforced disappearances have been reported with alarming frequency in Pakistan.
In November, the 2017 World Press Freedom Index, placed Pakistan among the most dangerous countries for journalists. Pakistan was ranked 139th out of 180 countries.