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Pakistan: Attack On The House Of Journalist

Pakistan: Intelligence Agency Officials Should Be Brought Before The Law For The Attack On The House Of A Prominent Journalist

It is evident by recent events that the state intelligence agencies remain above the law and are spending more time and resources on monitoring freedom of expression rather than doing their professional duties. In a recent incident the house of a journalist, Mr. Kamran Shafi, was attacked in late night hours with small arms fire. Mr. Kamran was very critical of the role of the ISI, a notorious intelligence agency of the military. He has been writing columns against the military and its influence over the civilian leadership of the country.

This latest incident happened in Wah, Punjab province, between the nights of November 27 and 28, when Kamran with his wife and daughter went to celebrate the Eid festival. His house was fired upon six times by a high velocity firearm, probably a Kalashnikov, which left half-inch deep and two-inch across holes in the concrete wall of the bedroom.

Journalists continue to be attacked by the state intelligence agencies, run by the armed forces and the Pakistani media continues to suffer unofficial censorship from the intelligence agencies. (http://material.ahrchk.net/pakistan/AHRC-STM-237-2009.ppt) The Inter Services Intelligence (I.S.I.) and Military Intelligence (M.I) determine what is in national interests and what is not. Sometimes, intelligence officers visit media offices to keep their influence on the media. During 2009 intelligence officers have prevented the media offices from publishing independent news from the areas under military operations against the Taliban and other militant groups. Even, the FM radios were stopped through the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) from broadcasting the BBC Urdu service which was airing interviews of local people from the war zone areas.

The intelligence agencies are so powerful in the country that they do not want to come under the control of civilian authorities. In August 2008 the ISI was placed under the control of the Ministry of Interior. There was uproar against this and within some days the prime minister had to rescind the order.

In the case of Mr. Kamran Shafi the ISI and other intelligence agencies were not happy when he wrote articles as to why the ISI should not be in civilian control in his regular Daily Dawn column. He immediately received emails containing filthy language. After the incident of firing at his house, the next day, Kamran received a telephone call in a female voice with the threat that what had happened to him last night was just the ‘trailer’ and that the complete movie would also be shown. She said, ‘One does not spit in the plate one eats from’, and that if he was not careful about what he writes he would soon see the complete movie.

Still, no action has been taken by the authorities even after he registered his complaint in the Wah Cantonment police station, bearing FIR number 827, and had mentioned that he suspects attack was from an agency. No further progress was made as it is difficult for the civilian authorities to probe the crimes of the intelligence agencies. The power of the intelligence agencies can be seen in the attitude of the judges of the higher judiciary that after their restoration through a call of chief of army staff, they are not asking the intelligence agencies for the recovery of the disappeared persons which the judiciary had been doing before its termination by a military dictator.

The Asian Human Rights Commission urges the prime minister to take the serious notice of the attack at the house of a columnist who was critical of the role of the intelligence agencies which act independently of the law. If proper action is not taken by the civilian government then there are chances that intelligence agencies will take it as weakness of the government and can harm Kamran Shafi or his family members. The government should bring the responsible officers of the ISI to trial for attacking the house of a prominent journalist.

About AHRC: The Asian Human Rights Commission is a regional non-governmental organisation monitoring and lobbying human rights issues in Asia. The Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984.

ENDS

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