A senior Samaa TV reporter was treated inhumanly after Paramilitary force Sindh Rangers picked him up outside his residence in Karachi on October 18, 2016, torturing him for more than one hours to seek his confessional report that he “target-killed eight persons” in Karachi.
“Treating a journalist in this fashion manifests the paramilitary force’s penchant to discourage independent journalism in Karachi,” Freedom Network [FN], Pakistan’s first media watchdog organization, said Monday – 24 October 2016 – in Press Freedom Alert to express full support to journalist Khurram Gulzar who was picked up outside his residence by Sindh Rangers personnel.
“We join the journalist community in waiting for the outcome of inquiry Sindh Rangers chief, Maj.-Gen. Bilal Akbar, promised with the victim before devising a strategy to bring perpetrators of the crime to justice,” FN said.
This is the second time that Rangers, enjoying unprecedented powers to restore peace in Karachi, took away a journalist and tortured him. Earlier, journalist Zafar Karimi was the first victim of the paramilitary force last year.
Twice, Sindh Rangers blocked access to Karachi Press Club letting journalists go inside after checking their press cards. A journalist was asked to accompany the Rangers personnel after he was identified as a “wanted person.” The journalist was allowed to go after his journalist colleagues argued with the Rangers personnel that he was a mistaken identity case.
“I was targeted 100 percent and it was not a case of mistaken identity,” Khurram, working as crime reporter with Samaa TV channel in Karachi, told FN via phone.
The journalist shared some photos showing signs of tortures during his little over one hour ordeal when he was picked up from outside his residence in Liaqatabad area of Karachi at 9.15pm when he just returned from office.
“A paramilitary force person approached me and asked for my identity card, which I shared with him. He asked my name. As I nodded in agreement the paramilitary force person began beating me in centre of street. They kept beating me during the course of drive,” the journalist with signs of torture on his back said.
He said the paramilitary force personnel pressed him to make confessional statement that he “had target-killed eight persons and that I am member of Muttahida (Qaumi Movement – Karachi-based political party). I was repeating that I am not a target-killer nor member of Muttahida and that I am a journalist. I was not heard well.”
“They carried non-stop violence against me punching and kicking me in back, head and shoulders,” Khurram, who is in the profession since 2000, spoke of difficult moments he experienced. With hood on his face, the journalist was taken to a detention centre of Sindh Rangers where the torture continued with warning that he would be given electric shocks if he did not make the confessional statement.
“You will have electric shocks after I count 10,” an officer, according to the journalist, told him.
Khurram felt sort of iron-rod was touched with his back. During 1-10 counts the journalist was repeating: “I am a journalist, sir.” “The personnel were hitting my head with their boots like football.”
He heard communication between the personnel who were beating the journalist and their presumed commander who was asking them who you picked up, the journalist said.
At 10.20pm, the journalist was finally released with a curt “sorry” from the paramilitary force personnel who warned the journalist against disclosing what he suffered to anyone. “We are sorry and do not let anyone know as to what happened to you and it will serve both your and our interests,” the force personnel told him movements before he was freed.
The journalist said he was never threatened before. “I am not covering Rangers story as I am usually doing follow-up stories. However, my documentary about drugs business in Karachi will go on-air. During the course of working on the documentary I was arrested by Rangers briefly for shooting the documentary,” Gulzar spoke of likely reasons behind his torture.
Sindh Rangers Director-General Maj.-Gen. Bilal Akbar ordered inquiry into the journalist’s torture. “My meeting was arranged with Rangers’ chief on Thursday – 20 October 2016 – and he pledged to probe my case and bring perpetrators of the crime to justice,” Khurram said.
“We are waiting for outcome of the inquiry and devise future course of action,” the journalist said.
Sindh Rangers are leading crackdown on criminals linked to political parties, mainly Muttahida Qaumi Party, gangs and mafia groups since mid-2013. However, the force is sometimes blamed for extra-judicial killings and arrests.
Karachi Press Club office-bearers, in a meeting with Secretary A. H. Khanzada in the chair, welcomed the Sindh Rangers chief’s pledge to hold probe into the torture of journalist Khurram Gulzar and punish personnel involved in the crime.