Pakistani journalist who works for Indian TV channel escapes kidnap attempt | world news | Hindustan Times
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Pakistani journalist who works for Indian TV channel escapes kidnap attempt

Taha Siddiqui, who reports for France 24 and is the Pakistan bureau chief of Indian television channel WION, said the attempted abduction took place while he was being driven by taxi to the airport serving the capital Islamabad and the neighbouring, larger garrison city of Rawalpindi.

world Updated: Jan 10, 2018 23:00 IST
Imtiaz Ahmad
Pakistani journalist Taha Siddiqui, who escaped a kidnapping attempt, speaks at a gathering in Islamabad.
Pakistani journalist Taha Siddiqui, who escaped a kidnapping attempt, speaks at a gathering in Islamabad.(Reuters)

Pakistani journalist Taha Siddiqui, who has criticised the powerful military establishment and works for India’s WION channel, narrowly escaped being kidnapped by armed men who roughed him up on Wednesday.

The incident came months after Siddiqui complained about being harassed by the Federal Investigation Agency and security services. Though the journalist did not blame anyone for the attack, the finger of suspicion pointed to the intelligence setup.

On Wednesday morning, Siddiqui was travelling to the Rawalpindi airport when his taxi was stopped at 8.20 am by unidentified men armed with rifles and handguns who tried to abduct him.

Journalist Asad Hashim, who later accompanied Siddiqui to a police station to file a complaint, said he was bundled into a car by the men but managed to escape by jumping out of the moving vehicle.

“He only escaped by running through oncoming traffic,” Hashim tweeted. He also posted several photos of a shaken Siddiqui, his clothes torn and dishevelled.

Siddiqui was “beaten (and) threatened with death”, Hashim said in his first tweet. Siddiqui’s belongings, including his laptop and mobile phone, were taken away by the armed men.

Islamabad Police said they were investigating an “attempt by 10 to 12 armed men” to abduct Siddiqui. Superintendent of police Mustafa Tanveer confirmed that Siddiqui had approached police soon after the incident.

Hashim said in another tweet, “It is a miracle that he escaped. He was beaten, threatened with death and his belongings taken. This is unacceptable. Journalism is not a crime.”

Siddiqui posted a message via journalist Cyril Almeida’s Twitter account, recounting details of the attack. He started the tweet by clarifying that he was using Almeida’s account.

Siddiqui said he managed to escape the kidnapping attempt and was “safe and with the police now”.

Shortly after Siddiqui posted this message on Twitter, messages of support from journalists started pouring in. “Journalist community must condemn the kidnapping attempt of Taha Siddiqui with full unity no compromise on harassment of media,” senior journalist Hamid Mir wrote.

In May last year, the FIA had issued a notice to Siddiqui, known for posting comments on social media against the military, and asked him to appear before its counter-terrorism wing.

Siddiqui then filed a petition in the Islamabad high court alleging that an FIA official had harassed him on phone. In his petition, Siddiqui alleged that a man named Noman Bodla, who identified himself as a member of the FIA’s counter-terrorism department, had called him and attempted to pressure him into appearing for an “interrogation” at the agency’s headquarters.

Siddiqui mentioned he “was reluctant to go to the FIA headquarters on the basis that there have been several reports in the press where such phone calls are made and once the person who is to be interrogated sets out to the FIA headquarters, he is either picked up and disappeared or detained illegally”.

Last year, five Pakistani bloggers went missing for several weeks before four of them were released. All four fled abroad and two afterwards told media that they were tortured by an intelligence agency during their disappearance.

The military and the civilian government have denied any role in the enforced disappearances.