Journalists have been performing their duties in the face of severe consequences; yet the events of the past few days show that the country holds not enough regard for their struggle; as evidenced by the ease and impunity with which the unknown “they” employed intimidation tactics once again. In a mind-boggling sequence of events, journalist Taha Siddique, was abducted by unknown armed men, beaten and threatened with death, and managed to escape by jumping out of a moving vehicle.
Siddique is a notable journalist based in Islamabad, published in a number of leading newspapers. He was already considered to have taken a place in the bad books of some, having gone to the Islamabad High Court (IHC) in May for an order to stop the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) from “harassing” him. His attempted abduction is likely in response to a report Siddique produced for the BBC, ironically, on enforced disappearances.
While enforced disappearances have been an unfortunate part of Pakistan’s history, the rates of these incidents have soared since 2015, aided by an ineffective government. The government has proved to be an institution protesters cannot rely upon to sympathise with them, with past Interior Ministers treating social media activities as a “threat to national values”.
Unfortunately, Pakistan’s credentials in the list of countries where journalists are unsafe, will only receive another sad testimonial after Mr Siddique’s ordeal.
It is telling that the attempted abduction occurred a day after the Supreme Court reprimanded the Missing Persons Commission for being too slow, and some months after the IHC had asked the FIA to stop intimidating Siddique, which shows that the those who commit such acts do not hold much regard for the judiciary. While the judiciary has been our one tool against enforced disappearances, it is not enough to combat the powers-that-be, as evidenced in Faizabad.
However, the one ray of hope in this ordeal is the fact that this incident has caused a near unanimous outrage, from Pakistani journalists to the foreign press. Taha Siddique’s speaking out about the intimidation tactics against him is rare among journalists who have been ‘punished’ and successfully silenced. His example emboldens those of us in the cause; it should serve as an appeal to all media houses - national and foreign - to unite on this issue, and fight to change Pakistan’s status as one of the most dangerous countries for journalists.