By Shakeel Anjum
ISLAMABAD: Unknown attackers who last month abducted, tortured and humiliated Umar Cheema, a senior investigative journalist of The News, have again started chasing him and the latest harassment of this kind occurred on Friday night.
Cheema was heading home with his family at around 10 pm when some suspects, again in a black Land Cruiser, started chasing his vehicle and did so for as long as nine kilometres on the Islamabad Highway. They started following his car from near Faizabad and remained in pursuit until he took a U-turn from the highway towards the PWD Housing Society. As he got off the main highway, the suspects stopped the Land Cruiser and started staring at the vehicle till it remained in sight. Incidentally, it was also a Friday night when Cheema was abducted in the wee hours of September 4, 2010. Likewise, a black Land Cruiser was used for his abduction and for chasing him again.
Cheema said this is not for the first time that he has been followed, adding the Friday night’s incident panicked his family members traveling with him. He said he has written a will and handed it over to his family, advising them as to who should be held accountable in case some tragedy hits him.
Umar Cheema was last picked up in a cloak and dagger style on his way home on September 4. He was stripped naked, tortured with a long piece of leather like whip and a wooden rod. His attackers had accused him of writing against the government.
The information he gathered later on indicated that the operation was presumably done by the thugs of an intelligence agency. Cheema, who wrote critical pieces about the federal government, Army, and intelligence agencies, said that it was always the ISI people who would contact him directly or indirectly for giving him ‘brotherly advice.’
After this brutal incident, the attackers didn’t lose track of him. He noted their presence on a number of times outside his residence after this incident and was also chased in the latest incident on Friday night.
The government so far has failed to bring the culprits to justice. Even the adjournment motion on Cheema’s issue in the National Assembly that was moved by the PML-N lawmakers, though approved for discussion, was not taken up in the last session that was prorogued without discussion on this important issue. Interior Minister Rehman Malik, who had promised completing the criminal investigation in a week, could not keep up his pledge as usual. A Joint Investigation Team that was formed later under pressure from journalist organisations failed to make any headway. The Lahore High Court had taken a suo moto notice of Cheema’s torture but police keeps buying time again and again without coming up with any solid clue. A judicial commission headed by a retired judge of high court is recording statements for a fact-finding report on this incident.
Besides Cheema and Ansar Abbasi who was also sent threatening messages, six journalists have recorded their statements narrating their harassment in the past by intelligence agencies. Geo TV anchor Hamid Mir, Kamran Shafi, a Dawn columnist, Sarmad Manzoor, chief coordinator of SAFMA, Shakeel Anjum, senior journalist of The News, Azaz Syed, investigative reporter of Dawn TV and Shakil Turabi, editor of SANA news agency, are among those who recorded statements before the judicial commission.
ISLAMABAD:(Umar Cheema) The wee hours of late Saturday brought a metamorphosis in my life. Not just that I was muffled, picked up, tortured, and humiliated. No absolutely not. Rather the torture has removed the remaining fear, if there was any in my heart and mind, and has instead given me the realization that we have to die fighting for this country.
My love for this country is based on some reasoning which is inspired by my firm belief that we can neither change our past nor our national identity. I learned this during my stay abroad for one and a half years when I went for studies, first in the US and then in UK. Lord Curzon’s words that “exile is a nursery of nationalism” always keep resounding in my ears.
Let us suppose I decide to settle abroad. I will again be Pakistani-British or Pakistani-American and the prefix ‘Pakistan’ cannot be dropped from my identity. It is always counted where you’re rooted in. So I have to stay attached and take care of my country wherever I am.
Having decided to live and die on this land, I have a dream to see Pakistan where brains, not batons reign supreme, where people can question the use of public money, where all institutions can be held accountable without any fear or favour, where our children love to live instead of fear to live, and where we are governed by the rule of law and not on the basis of personal loyalties.
The message of my captors for me was to become a status quo abiding person, not law abiding. They forced me through violence to accept their views and become a silent spectator to the rot without questioning what was happening to my beloved country.
I instead learned a different lesson from the torture and humiliation, to stand guard for this country, help the oppressed, keep questioning the high and mighty and continue the struggle to make this land livable and safe for the next generation.
The captors thought themselves to be heroes but emerged as villains and will go down in the history with same status. I feel pity for them. They were born innocent but forced to become sick minds. Instead of cursing them, I only pray for them because they don’t know we’re fighting for their betterment too.
My captors were probably not aware that I was also hit by a car in December 2004 that left me with compound fractures in my left leg. But I never bowed to those attackers either. Although I’ve forgiven my captors but not forgotten the perpetrators of this act that should be exposed and this mind-set be eliminated once and for all.
I believe in reporting with a moral force without any personal grudge against anybody or any institution. Whenever I write about anyone, the concerned people have always been approached for their version to balance my reporting. It is however a different story that those without answers to our questions try to propagate as if the stories are being planted and we are being bribed for doing this.
Such excuses are crafted by the individuals and institutions not inclined to revisit their conduct. But they don’t know that we, by virtue of our profession, have been tasked to unfold the truth, no matter who is affected by whatever way.
Some consider journalism as a shortcut to rise on the ladder to political power but we are here to protect the interest of people, neither our own nor of the rulers.
I have no words to thank so many of my well-wishers in Pakistan and abroad for consoling me and praying for me. I didn’t know many of them before. I was amazed to note how they struggled to reach me. Due to the flood of calls, I could not attend most of them. It was a silent majority that rose against the oppression of a tiny minority claiming to have monopoly on violence.
There was a mixed reaction to this incident. Those who didn’t know me gave me a new strength and conviction, emboldened me further and offered all-out help. People, who know me for years, were concerned about me and my family’s security. They think that I should think about my children. This is a question which comes to every parent’s mind. I would like to explain that the fight we are into is for my children and for the children of all Pakistanis.
We have to see the broader picture. Pakistani media is fighting the war for the future of this country. The country’s neighbours China and India, are emerging as superpowers but we, in spite of our immense capabilities, are on the decline. There are many who are even worried about its existence. The situation calls for internal accountability and restructuring the society but vested interests and pro-status quo forces seem to be strong, at least for the moment.
But we have to fight on and they don’t realize that a change is in progress, it is bound to come, sooner than later. I’m ready to pay any price for speaking up. Thomas Horaceman, who is considered the father of the public education system in US had said: “One should feel ashamed to die until one has done anything for humanity.” And I stand by his words.
Another attack of State Institutions on Freedom of Expression;Pakistani journalist kidnapped and tortured
Another attack on freedom of expression is made by so called state institutions which run like mafias under few criminals.
Umar Cheema, investigative reporter from The News, was kidnapped and tortured by state institutions. Also the kidnappers threatened that they will do this with other journalists writing against the criminal acts of government and its institutions. Kidnappers told Umar that Ansar Abbasi is next on their list.
CJ LHC has taken suo motto of this incident and an inquiry is being ordered.
We strongly condemn this act of terrorism and whoever is involved must be brought to justice.
LHC CJ takes suo moto notice of Cheema torture. PM Gilani, Nawaz console Umar Cheema on phone
LAHORE: Lahore High Court (LHC) Chief Justice Khwaja Muhammad Sharif on Saturday took suo moto notice of the torture of The News (a local newspaper) reporter Umar Cheema and summoned the Islamabad inspector general police on Monday.
Taking notice of the incident, the chief justice observed that torture of the journalist was an attack on press freedom, which was protected under the Constitution of Pakistan.
“Not only the judiciary but every citizen is duty bound to stop such incidents,” Justice Sharif further observed.
He directed the federal IGP to appear in the court along with the complete case record and apprise it of the facts of the incident. He also directed Additional Advocate General Muhammad Hanif Khatana to assist the court in the matter.
Read complete : http://www.paktribune.com/news/index.shtml?231274
Israel’s attack on humanitarian aid ship–> 20 killed , several injured; Reminds us of Stern Gang Activities
Another blow to humanity by The Terrorist Forces of Israel , reminding world of their Stern gang past of their armed groups. Today Israel has attacked Freedom Flotilla , a humanitarian aid ship, in the international waters. 20 innocent lives were taken by Israel in this terrorist strike and several innocent people including human rights workers, aid workers, journalists and members of international civil society got injured.
Many people on board are missing and no information is available regarding their safety and location. A well-known Pakistani TV anchor Talat Hussain, Aaj TV producer and a representative of a Pakistani NGO are also among the missing. Journalists and civil society have shown strong protests all over the world. USA, the prime supporter of Israel’s terrorist activities is still not showing responsiblity as a so-called advocate of freedom and justice. Lets see how so-called civilized world controls and answer this act of barbaric terrorism shown by an illegitimate state.
AFP: Unconfirmed media reports from Hamas’s Al Aqsa television said up to 20 passengers had been killed, of whom nine were Turkish nationals.
This is an interesting story of Yvonne Riddley converted to Islam after being captured and released by Talibans. It is a lesson for so called civilized nations like USA who treat women prisoners like animals and rape them in custody. Even uncivilized Talibans were more noble in their treatment with the women.
Now just compare it what civilized people did with an educated woman , a mother of three children.
Its a shame for so called civilized world:
It’s a real shame for USA justice system that every now and then we see people becoming victims of state run security agencies and the justice system in USA fails to protect them.
We have seen a shameful example of Dr. Aafia Siddiqi who is still having terrible time in USA and also an old man with the name Nayyar Zaidi is going through a mental torture because of the USA system of justice.
We in Pakistan and other third world countries are used to of similar but a country which claims to be the most progressive civilization and a symbol of democracy should not have such things in their society.
It is quiet clear that Nayyar Zaidi was trapped by USA security agencies in a shamefully false case and the victim’s family is getting not much help from the civil society of the world.
Therefore we appeal to the civil society of the world to do what ever they can to provide justice to an old man is who is facing may be the toughest time of his life.
Below is the message on Facebook by Nayyar’s family:
Muhammad Tariq Khan sent a message to the members of Nayyar Zaidi is a Journalist Not A Criminal, Support Nayyar Zaidi.
Subject: The Family Request .. Please Take Action ..
Regarding Nayyar Zaidi Case in a recent email from Zaidi family the family expressed their sorrow over the sad death news of Mr. Muhammad Tariq Khan’s brother in-law’s, Zaidi family conveyed their condolences to Mr. Khan and his family and pray Allah for mercy and blessing on deceased soul.
Zaid family also expressed their gratitude for Mr. Khan and the whole group for their unconditional support to Mr. Zaidi and his family in this trying time, Mr. Zaidi is still suffering in jail for a crime he never committed. According to the update his pre-trial hearing is this Wednesday October 7, 2009, when the judge will determine whether there is sufficient evidence for against Mr. Zaidi to go to trial by jury, and then date can be set for further hearing, and if the judge decides there is not enough evidence, then the whole case will be dismissed and he will be set free.
Mr. Zaidi also authorized group to send the addresses of Attorney General Eric Holder, to the members, supporters, journalists and journalist organizations in order to raise awareness about his case.
The following is the address and email address of the US Attorney General
The Attorney General of the United States of America
950 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, D.C. 20530
Attention: US Attorney General–
Attn; Eric Holder
Fax: +1 202-307-6777
The family recommended that everyone who sympathizes with Mr. Zaidi and is looking for the justice in his case should write to the US Attorney General on above address, email and fax request him to hold impartial and immediate investigation in this case.
Organizations such as PFUJ, Committee for Protection of Journalists, Local Press Clubs, National and International Journalist Organizations and individual journalist should write to him asking him to investigate this case, remember we are not demanding the release but impartial investigation into the circumstance that lead to Mr. Zaidi arrest and the way his case is being handled.
The family regretted the fact that President Zardari was recently in Washington and the Ambassador Haqqani was with him all along, who himself is a veteran journalist, but they never approached any of the family members and never raised Zaidi case on any level with US officials
The members, journalists and journalist organizations should also keep writing to Haqqani and Zardari to remind them of their obligations.
The Zaidi family, this trying time, is frustrated but their faith in Allah and religion keeps them going, they want to thank all members and are requesting everyone to please pray for October 7th outcome in favour of Mr. Zaidi.
It’s really sad that a senior Pakistani analyst and journalist is under arrest on FBI made up charges and Pakistan government especially and journalist communities in general aren’t doing anything for him.
Please join the cause of supporting Nayyar Zaidi on FaceBook:
Mr. Zaidi has been living in Virginia, Washington DC for more than 20 years now. He fathers 5 kids and is of 65 years of age. Mr. Zaidi has worked in media for around 40 years, his filings for the Jang Group and later The News cover a solid 25 year span.
Mr. Zaidi ran into trouble with authorities in USA for first time for breaking the news that CIA had supplied Heroin manufacturing factories to Afghan War Lords in order to generate funds for War against USSR.
He had further encounters with FBI in 1995 & then was visited by Feds (FBI) in 2003 (after 9/11), and was asked to “become an informant”, which he refused. FBI then tried to frame him on terrorist related Charges, his phone records were accessed and his communication was monitored, CNN’s Jonathan Mann report this story in his show INSIGHT WITH JONATHAN MANN and had broadcasted interview of Mr. Zaidi in 2003.
Finally they trapped him by using an agent who communicated with Mr. Zaidi on internet pretending to be mother of a 13 year old girl interested in having sex with an older man, driven by his journalistic instincts to find out the truth, Mr. Zaidi agreed to meet the mother of this “minor” in an open public place in a parking lot in Ohio State. However, she never showed up on the appointed place and time, as Zaidi drew out of the parking lot, some 50 FBI agents blocked his car in a Terry Style Stop without any legal warrants against him, asked him to step out of his car and arrested him for “Attempt to persuade, induce, entice, and coerce an individual who had not attained the age of 18, that is a 13 years old girl to engage in illegal sexual activity with him”.
However, the truth is that there was no minor, Mr. Zaidi never met any girl, or woman or anyone at all in person, he only communicated on internet and phone with a 40 year old woman who claimed to be the mother of 13 year old girl, and this woman was in fact not even a woman, but a male FBI agent who, according to FBI claim, used some gadget/device to change his male voice to that of a female of telephone while talking to Mr. Zaidi, he is the one who tried to persuade, induce, entice or seduce Mr. Zaidi to have sex with a 13 year old (who never existed).
Mr. Zaidi wanted to investigate him/her and during communication refused to meet the minor and refused to meet the so called Mother in private and asked her to come to a public place if she were REAL.
In fact FBI admits in their own unsigned indictment in the court that they persuaded Zaidi, and told him that the minor girl (who never existed) has been persuaded by the Mother (FBI agent) and Mother wants her daughter to have sex with him thus the case should be against agents who fabricated the whole thing and themselves admit of persuading a minor (who never existed) into a sexual contact with an adult male (which never happened).
Though his arrest was made in a dramatic style, it was in clear violation of local state and federals laws.
First and foremost Mr. Zaidi was arrested illegally rather kidnapped without any probable cause being established for warrants to be issued, without any warrants obtained for his arrest on March 20, 2008, and without serving him with any warrants at the time of his arrest.
He was kept in custody for over two days till March 23, 2008 without producing any warrant or presenting him before any judge. On March 23, 2008 a notice was issued to produce him before the court but no warrants made available, when he was produced before the Court the Indictment papers were unsigned and no official stated under oath the probable cause for arrest as required by the Law.
The Prosecution did not go to a grand jury as required by Fifth Amendment, whereby its clearly states that “No person shall be held to answer for a capital or otherwise infamous crime unless on presentation or indictment of a grand jury”. Thus the most Basic right was violated.
Since his arrest almost a year and half, the case has progressed very little, during this period a lawyer provided by Govt. and 3 hired by the family were all pressurized/influenced by US Intel agencies, finally Mr. Zaidi decided to represent himself in the court. Although in US justice system it works against the defendant if he/she does not have a proper lawyer, however, Mr. Zaidi believes he has no other choice.
Upon his request to represent himself, judge referred him to a mental facility, for mental evaluation to ascertain if he could stand a trial and/or represent himself.
As per Law in USA the judge should ensure an earliest possible hearing, however, the maximum time period he may allow to keep someone in a mental facility is 4 months, yet the judge never called a hearing during 4 months time, and in a clear violation of the law he let him stay in for over 5 months and did not call a hearing even after the mandatory time had passed.
In such environment it is hard to believe that impartial justice will be done, especially when judge starts acting illegally, it is understood that defendant stands a little chance.
We believe that Mr. Zaidi is innocent until proven guilty, all we want is an impartial inquiry into the manner in which he was arrested, we want his trial to take place in transparent and efficient manner, we want him to be represented by able lawyers not under influence of US Govt. and we want evidence against him brought forward if any.
We Appeal to all Journalist bodies including various press clubs in Pakistan, PFUJ, REPORTER’S COMMITTEE FOR THE FREEDOM OF JOURNALISTS AND JOURNALISTS SAN FRONTIER and all the International bodies of the journalists to take this matter up on merit.
We request the Govt. of Pakistan and Pakistan’s Ambassador in USA to take interest in this case and provide Zaidi with legal and financial help that may be required.
We know how the prisoners in the US custody are treated be it in Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantanamo or in US Prisons, the US does not conform to any international law when it comes to frame someone and or the treatment of those detained.
Thus we must do our bit. It is another way of countering the media syntax and vocabulary that relentlessly projects “Pakistan” and “Pakistani” as a conjunction of things “bad, negative and hopeless” – a fact that I personally resent. By silence and navel-gazing or universally critiquing our own we publically forfeit national pride.
We firmly believe that Mr. Zaidi deserves sympathy and help in this trying time of his life from his fellow journalists and countrymen.
Read Nayyar Zaidi’s point of view:
We are proud that we have a brave soldier in our country with name Dr. Shireen Mazari who despite pressures and threats is continuing her work of spreading the truth about US invasion of Pakistan.
In recent incident US Ambassoder pressurised a local news paper “The News International” to block her column.
According to SANA news agency:
“ISLAMABAD (SANA): Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf spokesperson on foreign affairs Shirin Mazari has claimed that a US base being built in Gharo area in Sindh.
Addressing a news conference Shirin Mazari said the US poking its nose in all affairs of Pakistan and when she started writing columns on the matter the US Ambassador exerted pressure closing her writings.
Mazari said her life has been under threat adding that the Minister of Interior and US diplomats will be responsible if anything happened to her.”
We clearly condemn the actions of US ambassador and demand the government of Pakistan (just a formality we know they are American pets) to expel the ambassador as she has crossed the boundaries of diplomatic norms and harmed our freedom of expression.
SHOES ARE TRACED OUT
The pair of shoes which was thrown at Mr. Bush in Iraq has links to Pakistan, said a statement from Pentagon. They have the following proofs:
i) The journalist had visited Pakistan earlier this year. There he was inspired by the shoe throwing at former CM Arbab Ghulam Rahim and Sher Afghan Niazi.
ii) He received his training of throwing shoes by a Pakistan based Jihadi organization.
iii) The DNA sample of leather has revealed that the animal whose skin was used for manufacturing the shoe had traces of grass which is grown in North of Pakistan and this skin was collected by a Jihadi organization on Eid-ul-Adha this month.
Hearing this, President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani have decided to ban the Jihadi organization and launched a country wide crackdown against all the cobblers in Pakistan.
(On one of the university groups I read this interesting email, the way Pakistan is blamed for every thing without proofs and the obedience our government shows it doesn’t look impossible though it’s just for fun)