An investigative journalist, who writes for The Friday Times, was forced to leave Karachi after nine-ten hours ordeal he underwent following his kidnapping by what he confirmed “uniformed police personnel.”
“What the journalist has described is shocking to know that Karachi Police could kidnap a journalist to deliver him to the ‘boss.’ This case needs special investigation to pinpoint the perpetrators of the crime and brought to justice,” Freedom Network [FN], a Pakistani press freedom organization, said in an alert.
Ali Khan Chishti went on air Friday night to describe his ordeal after picked up from Karachi’s PECHS area along with his driver on August 30, 2013, at around 8pm (local time) by “uniformed policemen” from Karachi Police. “The police officials were blunt and upfront as if they are indispensable and on the police vehicle – a Hilux with police siren – took off with me and my driver blindfolded.
“Upon enquiry, I was told that I am not being kidapped but someone wanted to see me: when I asked who? The answer was ‘Boss.’ The police van was moving fast towards Clifton/Sea View area taking Shaheed-e-Millat Road, Korengi Bridge and from there taking a shortcut to Khaban-e-Intehad and to Sea View/Do Darya side,” the investigative journalist gave details of early moments of his kidnapping.
FN describes the journalist’s kidnapping and illegal detention case as a serious challenge for the Sindh government. “Chishti’s kidnapping is the second far serious case after Baluch journalist Abdul Razki Baluch’s dead body was found with torture signs on August 21 in Karachi. Anything less than a thorough investigation under supervision of a Sindh High Court judge will not take us to actual facts regarding circumstances under which the journalist was made to suffer,” FN demanded of Sindh Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah.
“And the vehicle stopped suddenly, a policeman sudden took off my watch, valet and cell phone while someone else jumped in, ‘why did you guys bring the driver? Get rid of him!’ – Suddenly they took my driver out and there was silence … There were six policemen in total; four were at the back side and two in the front.
“You thought you could get away? No you can’t. Prepare to die! The boss had arrived and from what I could see from blindfold, the man was in his mid 30s, fair and grey haired.
”Next thing I know after a good 15-20 minutes drive, I was brought into what appeared to be a remote mansion. The gates opened and I was taken into a room blindfolded and my hands tied.
“I was escorted into a small room with brownish cheap carpet, black office sofas and a table. I was tied up and tightly blindfolded and air conditioner was turned on. After 10 minutes a person appeared and started kicking me on my back shouting and abusing me. The beating was severe while they abused me, my boss, Najam Sethi, constantly – ‘you guys want to start an operation in Karachi!!!!,’ ‘what are your sources,’ ‘whom do you know in the military?,’ ‘what’s your association with Najam Sethi?,’ ‘You are a traitor,’ ‘You are an agent’ – the beating stopped and continued with time,” journalist went on to share some of the nerve-wrecking moments of his ordeal.
Najam Sethi, one of the country’s best-known journalists who edits political weekly The Friday Times and does “Aapas Ki Baat” programme on Geo News TV channel, confirmed to FN the kidnapping of his investigative journalist. He also spoke about Chishti’s case during the programme on Friday night.
“It was a long nine-ten hours ordeal. Eventually I was left after certain promises of leaving Karachi at Khaban-e-Ittehad, DHA where local police van came to the rescue although they wanted a bribe. My car was parked opposite Cineplex Cinema, DHA which the police helped me locate. I moved from Karachi after that,” Chishti said.
The journalist’s ordeal did not stop with his “conditional” release. He said his staff member Rameez Iqbal was stopped on 3 September at 2.30pm by police vehicle (Suzuki Mehran) and there was Police Corolla car with the vehicle questioning Iqbal about his whereabouts and threatened. “Apparently, the threats at my Karachi office continue with police cars, private cars (black Hilux) and other individuals there to threaten my staff every day.”
Meanwhile, Senator Saeed Ghani of Pakistan People’s Party, which governs Karachi, contacted Chishti and promised “investigation.” However, the journalist fears the Karachi police may fake a case against him to overshadow the kidnapping-illegal-detention incident.