Pakistan diplomat in Canada caught on tape allegedly threatening journalist

On the tape, Imran Ahmed Siddiqui is heard saying: “Journalists have freedom, they can say whatever they want…We too have the freedom to do whatever we need to.”

world Updated: Aug 24, 2018 09:07 IST
Anirudh Bhattacharyya
Anirudh Bhattacharyya
Hindustan Times,
Pakistan diplomat,Canada,Threat to journalist
A radio show in Canada described Pakistan consul general Imran Ahmed Siddiqui’s purported comments as a threat to “fix” journalists whose views were “not acceptable” to the diplomat.(Twitter/Canada in Pakistan )

Pakistan’s consul general in Toronto has been caught on tape purportedly threatening a Canadian journalist of Pakistani-origin, prompting calls for his expulsion from the country.

The apparent threat emerged during a telephone conversation in March between the consul general, Imran Ahmed Siddiqui, and an unidentified caller. Referring to Tahir Aslam Gora, the head of the multi-cultural TAG TV network, the diplomat purportedly says such journalists will have to cooperate “if they want to survive”.

The Canadian radio show, The Quiggin Report, described Siddiqui’s purported comments a threat to “fix” journalists whose views were “not acceptable” to the diplomat.

Reacting to the contents of the recording, a copy of which was made available to Hindustan Times, Howard Anglin, executive director of Calgary-based Canadian Constitution Foundation, tweeted: “This is an unacceptable threat and interference with Canadian press freedom.”

Anglin, a former deputy chief of staff to Canada’s prime minister, said the government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau “should have the guts to expel the diplomats involved, as the other govts have done when Pakistani diplomats crossed legal/diplomatic lines”.

A one point of the conversation, which takes place in Urdu and English, Siddiqui refers to Gora and says: “We are working on a treatment.” He uses the Urdu word ‘ilaaj’ or treatment to refer to dealing with Gora and says this is not being done overtly.

Referring to journalists perceived to be anti-Pakistan, Siddiqui is heard saying: “Journalists have freedom, they can say whatever they want…We too have the freedom to do whatever we need to.”

He adds, “There is a treatment and it is being done…the treatment is being done slowly as the thing has spread.”

Anglin’s tweet was in response to another in a similar vein by Shuvaloy Majumdar, senior fellow at Ottawa-based MacDonald Laurier Institute. Majumdar noted the diplomat’s remarks constituted a “chilling threat” against journalists and called on Trudeau and foreign minister Chrystia Freeland to “expel” the diplomat.

“All parliamentarians from all levels of govt shld ban and boycott him,” Majumdar added.

The office of Pakistan’s consul general did not respond to a request for comment on the matter. Gora said when he became aware of this call targeting his freedom of expression as a journalist, he “was really in deep anger”.

“How dare he threaten a Canadian citizen? That too a journalist. He’s a diplomat here, he’s not here to threaten or harass journalists,” Gora said. He said he expected the Canadian government to pursue this matter and to “have the guts” to act against Siddiqui.

The identity of the caller and the person who leaked the recording is unknown.

Siddiqui arrived in Toronto in July 2016 to assume charge as the consul general. He has held several top posts, including joint secretary to the National Security Advisor in Pakistan’s National Security Division.

First Published: Aug 24, 2018 07:45 IST