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.